Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Last weekend, I judged a science fair. It was my first time being on this side of a science fair, although honestly, the only time I entered in a science fair was in 7th grade with a project on antacids that even at the time I thought was embarassingly dumb. Despite not ever competing in a science fair from 8th through 12th grade, I still managed to eventually get a science PhD. I have no idea what moral to take away from this anecdote.

Anyway! There I was, assigned as a Physics category judge. There were about 15 of us, and I was the only woman. I didn't have a chance to actually tally the numbers of other judges, but I did get the definite impression that our category had the poorest representation of women among the judges. I was also definitely on the younger side. On the bright side, I didn't see gender playing an obvious role in any of the judging. After all, our category winner was a pair of girls who went on to be selected to go to the International Science and Engineering Fair. I did gently chide one of my fellow judges when he made a comment about "our guys" in reference to our shared alma mater, but he took it with good grace.

I was a bit nervous going into this, afraid that the projects would be way above my head and I wouldn't be able to fairly judge projects because I didn't understand them. Imposter syndrome rearing its ugly head, that sort of thing. But as it turned out, the projects spanned a huge range, from "we got the equations off the internet" to "this calculation is completely theoretical" and everything in between. It was only the theoretical computation that I wasn't able to understand, but neither could any of the other judges. And I would say that all of us had physics bachelor's degrees, and at least half of us had PhDs in a science-related field.

All in all, it was an interesting and fun experience. I would definitely go back to do it again if I have the opportunity.

No comments: