FHSU to present science documentary

Margaret Allen
Hays Daily News

Fort Hays State University will present the full-length documentary film, “Picture a Scientist,” from Feb. 26 through March 2. The independent documentary follows a groundswell of researchers who are writing a new chapter for women scientists.

Dr. Jane Willenbring, one of the film’s featured scientists, will be available with other scientists for questions and discussion at 3 p.m. March 2.

Registration is required to participate in the film screening and the following discussion. Register for the film screening and the following discussion at https://www.fhsu.edu/geo/events/pictureascientist.

“Picture a Scientist” brings diversity in science into sharp view at a critical time. It features geologist Willenbring, chemist Raychelle Burks, and biologist Nancy Hopkins, as well as key social scientists working to understand and reduce gender bias in the sciences. The current pandemic is a call to action for scientists with a multitude of different perspectives to work together globally to defeat COVID-19.

The documentary paints a nuanced and emotional, but unflinching, portrait of the struggles that women in science have faced in recent decades while being stymied by a system of harassment, discrimination, and general bias. The film challenges audiences of all backgrounds and genders to question their own implicit biases and move toward change.  

Funding for the virtual film screening at Fort Hays State has been provided by the Werth College of Science, Technology, and Mathematics. Film screening and the Q&A discussion are hosted by the Department of Geosciences.

Dr. Hendratta Ali, associate professor of geosciences at FHSU, said the film is in line with Fort Hays State’s training for sexual harassment. It presents stories to show the impact of harassment and the advocacy that can develop from lived experiences. It captures experiences that most women in academia face at their early, mid, and late-career stages.

“While the film chronicles the experiences of women in STEM, I think it captures the professional lives of many women,” Ali said. “It shows how women and allies can come together to make change happen.”

Dr. Todd Moore, chair of the Department of Geosciences, said that while women have been the focus of harassment and unequal treatment in academia and other professions, they have still made contributions.

“As a society, we need to recognize and celebrate these contributions,” he said. “We also must address inequities, but, as with all problems, we must have a broad awareness of a problem for systemic change.”

He thinks that the film can help raise awareness of the contributions of women scientists while overcoming obstacles.

“The journeys of Dr. Nancy Hopkins, Dr. Raychelle Burks, and Dr. Jane Willenbring are inspiring,” he said, “and they will help pave the way for up-and-coming scientists and systemic change.”

The featured scientist, Willenbring, is a geomorphologist and professor of geology at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and director of the Scripps Cosmogenic Isotope Laboratory. Willenbring’s research examines the evolution of the Earth’s surface, especially how landscapes are affected by tectonics, climate change, and life on Earth.

For more information contact: Dr. Hendratta Ali at hnali@fhsu.edu or the Department of Geosciences at geosciences@fhsu.edu.