It’s a funny thing being both a scientist and a creative and until two days ago I would only have described myself as one of those things. I have a curious, analytical and creative mind. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to physically see the beauty in science but also to be able to voice it and convey that to others. This a skill and a unique one but one I threw away.
For those readers who are new, my history is in science. I have an MSc. in Chemistry from DCU and it’s something that for the last 6 years I have been both mad and ashamed for holding. I wasn’t proud to be a woman in science. I was infuriated, disillusioned and so miserable I left my PhD with a Masters and ran into the creative comfort of the yarn industry that I love. Until two days ago I was one hundred per cent sure I was never going back to science again. Why would I when the memory of how I felt as a researcher stays with me?
Memory is a powerful thing but so is hindsight. Like so many graduates both male and female, I chose to do research but not because of the topic. That was my mistake, not knowing myself. I loved my undergraduate thesis because it gave me what I craved. It was this perfect blend of science, technology and creativity and it left me with a thirst for wanting more. What happened was falling into the wrong area of science and three years of me becoming more and more miserable and having to write about a topic I had come to hate. My life had become this constant battle of chemistry versus creativity when it shouldn’t have been. I was stifled and miserable and crying before going into the lab. I felt like I had wasted an entire decade of my life and I never wanted to see it again.
I just didn’t realise that deep down I was still a scientist.
Let me be clear, it wasn’t because I was a woman, I had an amazing female professor as part of the research area I was in. I was surrounded by other females in science. I was in one of the most supported institutions for women in science and I would still to this day tell students to go there to meet and listen to the faculty and researchers. What happened was a choice that was wrong for me but the best thing that I did was to leave as it led to this wonderful life in the yarn industry.
Here I have grown and flourished and created an amazing and unique skillset. I love to write, I love how this industry is driven mostly by women. Every day these amazing conversations I have are with women. I’m supported, my voice and opinion matters and by being around these amazing women I have been nurtured into the person that I am today. I just didn’t realise that deep down I was still a scientist. She was just sleeping and broken.
I’m a writer, I love to write so why was my masters so hard to put on paper?
I realised that when I have no passion for a subject matter my brain becomes disengaged. It will never be my best work and I have an amazing mind when I want to use it. In fact, that’s something my father has said about me ever since I was a child. When I am not engaged or driven the resulting output is lack lustre at best. An inspired me means that I will give over everything to that subject. Over the last few days, I attended Inspirefest 2017. I sat in the Bord Gais Energy Theater and a beautiful thing happened, I remembered why I wanted to be a scientist.
Every speaker that came on the stage spoke as if they were talking directly to me. I remembered how much I had wanted to work in science, how much I wanted to take part in these discussions and to add value. I realised right now that I am the best version of myself there has ever been. I’m settled, I’m happy, I know myself. I know what drives me and best of all I know that I can be anything I put my mind to be. This website and podcast prove that. I have no formal training in web design, broadcasting or any of the skills that I acquired over the last few years and yet I have built something I’m proud of.
Dr. Niamh Shaw gave an amazing speech on creativity in science but she asked the question “When do we let our big dreams go?” and I realised I hadn’t actually let go of science. I was sitting in this theatre with some of the brightest minds in science, technology and art and I was engaged. I was listening to women, not men discussing their careers and their passions and I loved every minute. I cried when I found myself relating to some of the feelings that these women have had about working in science and art because my passion, my real passion lies with a combination of technology, art and science.
Eimear Noone, who is a personal heroine of mine, discussed her life as a women composer and how she strived for her passion, her dream and how she made it happen. She reminded me of the quote “Know Thyself” and those words are so important it was repeated as her final words as she left the stage. I thought I knew myself and constantly I am reminded that I only think that I do. Each time I grasp an understanding another life experience happens and it changes my mind.
These last few days have been a revelation to me. I have never been to an event where every single speaker sparked a thought, an idea or inspired me but Inspirefest did. Every. Single. One. When I said that I was the best version of myself, I meant it. I know my mind, where my skill set lies. I know the unique qualities that my voice brings to the table. I am smart, intelligent and that when I put my mind to it, absolutely nothing ends up stopping me, I just find or construct another way to make it happen.
For the first time in years, I am inspired by science. I would never have considered myself a strong woman but over the last few days I held my own in these conversations and I added insight and value to the conversations. People actually wanted to talk to me and to continue our discussions at an event where I thought I was going to sit in the back of the room and take notes.
I tweeted that I’m a woman, a chemist, a creative and a writer, my choice should never have to be just one of those things. These past few days have been life changing for me because those speakers woke me up when I didn’t know I was asleep. We need more women in STEAM, women have been shouting it for years and I heard but I didn’t listen. I can guarantee that I am listening now. I can pinpoint those times in my life that I was disillusioned by science but I can also pinpoint where in my childhood my curiosity for science and technology began. I’m not sure of my way forward from here, what path my career will take but it will be of my own choosing and making. It will be a combination of my unique skills set of chemistry, science, creativity, writing ability, social media, blogging and everything else I have learned. I will probably add a lot more skills before I am done and probably some more qualifications too. I want to be the person who can invoke this inspiration in others. I want to light a fire in people, awaken that passion for science and creativity. As soon as I figure out how I know that nothing will stop me except myself. My life shouldn’t be the battle between chemistry versus creativity it should be a combination of both for me to be the best person that I can be. I cannot wait for the future because it is going to be great because I will make it so.
P.S. I also add a huge thank you to SFI who sponsored my ticket to Inspirefest. It did not go to waste and I also want to thank everyone that I got to talk with especially to those who talked about their career, what paths they took and what they do every day. I especially want to thank Ann O’Dea because this event is inspiring women into STEM and the students I got to talk to yesterday along with myself prove that.
Expect more posts from me on the need for creativity in science.