Science is Sexy

These aren’t any Grey’s Anatomy doctors or Big Bang Theory scientists. These people are the real deal. They are actual badass doctors, researchers, and science activists who strive for knowledge, some seeking to tackle large problems in science, some trying to promote science education, and some raising a family on top of it all. They give talks, write books, author papers, have articles written about them, and reach out on social media to help improve understanding for all. These people are living proof that intelligence makes you sexy, and they deserve much more admiration than anyone who pretends to be one on TV.

1. David Eagleman

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Look at him. Just look at him! Look at his wonderful brown locks. Look at that smolder. Anyways…

A few years ago he threw out the term “possibilian” to describe his religious views as an “active exploration of possibilities” since “we know too little to commit to commit to a strict religion but we know too much to commit to a view of strict atheism.” Well, the term exploded. A funny phenomenon in that it really is a movement where people don’t commit to a single thing. Nonetheless, no talk could better describe my views than his possibilian talk that you can see here.

Not only is he outspoken in his theistic views and a proponent for the scientific viewpoint, but he is a neuroscience professor at Baylor University and the bestselling author of books like Sum and Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain. He directs the Laboratory for Perception and the Initiative on Neuroscience Science and Law at the Baylor College of Medicine, and is best known for his research on time perception, synesthesia, and neurolaw. Interestingly, he majored in British and American literature before getting his PhD in neuroscience. He shows that your undergraduate major does not have to define what you will do with your life.

Even more, he is a Guggenheim Fellow, a Next Generation Texas Fellow, a council member on the World Economic Forum, a research fellow in the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, and a board member of the Long Now Foundation. He is also an academic editor for several scientific journals, and has been named one of 2012’s Brighest Idea Guys by Italy’s Style magazine. He is the scientific advisor for the television drama Perception, and has been profiled on the Colbert Report, NOVA Science Now, the New Yorker, CNN’s Next List, and many other venues. He appears regularly on radio and television to discuss literature and science as well.

UFF DA. That’s a lot of stuff. Anyways, his brilliance and his brown locks really make him a sexy scientist.

2. Ben Goldacre

Ben Goldacre

His mad-scientist/flowing locks hairstyle is another winner in the hair category. This self described “nerdy doctor” is battling bad science and big pharma to bring better results and more efficient methods of testing drugs in humans so that lives are not needlessly lost because of faults in the way that we express our data from trials. He’s written books called Bad Science and Big Pharma that expose these flaws as well as he maintains an active twitter feed and writes articles about the matter. Additionally, this Englishman born from Australian parents was trained in medicine at Oxford and London and now works as an academic in epidemiology.

As he writes, “If you’re a journalist who misrepresents science for the sake of a headline, a politician more interested in spin than evidence, or an advertiser who loves pictures of molecules in little white coats, then beware: your days are numbered.”

His determination to take on such a big problem in medicine in research makes him a very sexy doctor.

3. Christy Haynes

Christy Haynes 2

When she’s not busy taking care of her two young children, Christy Haynes is a chemistry professor at the University of Minnesota, my alma mater. Not only is she a professor, but she was named one of Popular Science magazine’s “Brilliant 10” a group of “geniuses shaking up science today.”

When she was in graduate school at Northwestern, she helped revive her advisor’s career while jumping ahead in her’s by taking the papers he had begun to write but set aside and rewriting, updating references, doing whatever was needed to get them published. When she was done she had 27 publications, while usually graduate students have 3-5. If that’s not badass, I don’t know what is. Now that she’s a professor, her lab has developed a first-of-its-kind measurement of individual platelets, those little cells lacking a nucleus that help our blood clot and are notoriously difficult to pin down. Using this method, they look at how cholesterol, drugs, and disease affect communication between platelets. She’s also now working with a mechanical engineer and a medical doctor to manufacture, target, and heat simple nanoparticles – silicon and iron oxide – to treat cancer tumors.

Even more, she is seeking to get more women into science and to get kids excited about science. She started with herself to improve the percent of women in chemistry departments of top 50 research universities from its low percentage of 13.7. She’s also featured on a PBS kids show, DragonflyTV, as a real scientist.

I seriously don’t know how she even has time to sleep. As a potent mix of mom, chemist, and trailblazer, Christy is definitely a sexy scientist.

4. Mike Brown

Mike Brown 3

Mike Brown. California Institute of Technology. The discovery of trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs) like the dwarf planet Eris, the only TNO larger than pluto. That is how pluto died.

I know you’re probably still upset that pluto is no longer considered a planet – trust me, I am too – but just don’t take it out on the guy whose hard scientific work brought that realization to light. Nonetheless, Mike embraces the blame taking the twitter handle @plutokiller.

He has been named one of Time’s “100 most influential people of 2006.” He’s also earned the Fenyman prize, Caltech’s most prestigious teaching honor. In addition to teaching and discovering new objects at the outside of our solar system, he’s also written a book, How I Killed Pluto and Why I Had It Coming, which may be a good source of closure over the loss of our 9th planet in the solar system. I saw this professor of planetary astronomy from California Institute of Technology when he gave a talk at the University of Minnesota a few years back and it finally brought me comfort that what I had learned as a child was no longer true. Plus Mike was just an entertaining speaker, making jokes with the time delay to the overflow room and whatnot.

He seeks to reveal truth that conflicts what we know and has dealt with the struggle of bringing to light a discovery that rewrites textbooks. This makes him a sexy scientist.

5. Elise Andrew

Elise Andrew 1She may not have a doctorate or be working in research, but if it weren’t for her many of us wouldn’t know all the cool things that are happening in science these days. Elise is the founder and sole administrator of the popular Facebook accounts “I Fucking Love Science”, “Earth Story”, “Evolution”, and “The Universe” with over 6 million fans on the largest page, IFLS. I’m not quite sure how she gets anything done in the day because I’m pretty sure there’s constantly new things posted on IFLS alone.

She rocked her followers’ minds this spring when she linked her personal twitter account to the Facebook site and *gasp* everyone found out she was in fact a woman (although if anyone had checked the ‘about’ section of the page, they would have quickly realized that). Nonetheless, she is helping break the stereotype and dominance of men in science that is apparently still a problem while keeping us informed on all the awesome and weird happenings in science!

Also, she was born in England and now works in Canada, so she’s gotta have a super cool accent. Oh and she’s only in her early 20s! Elise found a great way to connect to scientists and non-scientists alike by sharing science in a fun way on a easy to follow site, which makes her a sexy science advocate.

6. Kristen “Kiki” Sanford

Kiki Sanford 1Also known as Dr. Kiki, Kristen began as a research scientist in neurophysiology after getting her PhD in molecular, cellular, and integrative physiology, but she said screw you to the academic bureaucracy that she found unappealing and left research to pursue a career in science communication. Since then she has hosted various radio shows and podcasts that promote science such as This Week In Science for which she received the American Association for the Advancement of Science Mass Media Science & Engineering Fellowship. She also starred on On Network’s show Food Science that explores the science of cooking as well as at-home experiments involving food.

Of her work, she says, “My shtick is Dr. Kiki reaches out to people who don’t necessarily like science to get them to see it as something enjoyable. My goal is to get people who maybe flunked chemistry or didn’t do well on their science fair project to say, ‘This is really interesting.’

She got herself away from what she viewed as an unappealing career path that she was headed towards, strives to get non-science people interested in science, and is a black belt in taekwondo, which is pretty badass, which makes her a sexy science advocate.

7. Bill Nye

Bill Nye 1

Sure we all know him as his TV persona Bill Nye the Science Guy, but he’s done a lot more for science than when the show aired from 1993 to 1998.

With just a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Cornell, he started work at Boeing and while there designed a hydraulic pressure resonance suppressor that is still used in the 747. During that time, he also was on a sketch comedy show in Seattle where he got the name Bill Nye the Science Guy, which lead to the show that we know and love. After the show ended, he stayed in the entertainment industry, having guest appearances on various shows and serving as technical expert for the show BattleBots. A lecture he gave was even the inspiration for the show Numb3rs.

He now advocates for more than just getting children excited about science. He serves as the second director of the Planetary Society and helped develop a small sundial that was sent on the Mars Rover missions and included colored panels for a basis of color calibration. Climate change is also a great concern of Bill’s as he serves as he advocates for clean energy sources. He is the face of an exhibit at the Cabot Space & Science Center in Oakland California that focuses on the problems of climate change. Additionally, he is a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, which is a non-profit scientific and educational organization that aims to promote scientific inquiry, critical investigation, and the use of reason in examining controversial and extraordinary claims.

Bill gets people excited about science both young and old and advocates for large issues like climate change, which makes him a sexy scientist and science advocate.

8. Elizabeth Blackburn

Dr. Elizabeth H. Blackburn

What’s a list of awesome scientists without a Nobel Prize winner? It’s NOTHING. Well here you go. You know how we have telomeres at the end of our DNA that shorten as cells replicate thus determining the amount of times a cell can replicate? Well this lady co-discovered that there is a protein – called telomerase – that extends telomeres. This protein is not present in normal somatic cells but is turned back on in cancer giving it the ability to continue to replicate without limits.

Clearly Elizabeth is pretty cool. She was born in Australia and studied at the University of Cambridge in England for her PhD so she’s got to have an awesome accent. She now works at the amazing University of California San Francisco where she served as the Department Chairwoman of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology for a time. She’s also the president-elect of the American Association for Cancer Research.

In 2002, she was appointed a member of the President’s Council of Bioethics under Bush. Her council terms were terminated in 2004 though to much despair in the scientific community likely because of her opposition to the Bush Administration in that she supports stem human embryonic cell research.

She’s made big discoveries and stands her ground on issues of ethics in research, which makes her a very sexy scientist.

9. Fabiola Gianotti

Fabiola Gianotti 1

Fabiola is fabulous. She works at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, considered the world’s largest scientific experiment. Not only that, she led one of the two teams at CERN that detected the Higgs Boson particle in the summer of 2012. She also spent 4 years as the spokesperson and coordinator for the ATLAS (argonne tandem linear accelerator system) experiment, which is one of the seven particle detector experiments at CERN. This experiment’s goal is to observe phenomena that involve highly massive particles which were not observable using earlier lower-energy accelerators. As spokesperson she lead the lab’s strategic planning and presented findings to the national media. Additionally, she was a finalist for Time’s Person of the Year award in 2012, nbd. Even more, she is humble about it all as she said, “All the people who have contributed to the LHC should have been runners-up for Time’s Person of the Year. But I guess this would have been unpractical.” (Symmetry Magazine)

Not only did she received her PhD in experimental sub-nuclear physics from the University of Milan, but she has a professional music diploma from Milan Conservatory as she is a trained pianist, which is pretty cool to have as a scientist!

She’s one of the few people that likes comic sans, leads a large team to detect tiny never-before-observed particles, is Italian, and is a trained pianist on top of it all, which makes Fabiola a sexy scientist.

10. Neil deGrasse Tyson

Neil DeGrasse Tyson 1I bet you were pretty concerned that I hadn’t mentioned NDT yet, but relax, he’s right here. You may know him from his memes, his popular twitter account, or his hosting of NOVA Science Now on PBS. In that case, you probably think he’s a total badass… which he is.

He’s currently the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space and a research associate in the department of astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History. I also just freaked out a bit when I found out that he’s going to be hosting a sequel to Carl Sagan’s television series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. In 2001, he was appointed by Bush to serve on the Commission on the Future of the United States Aerospace Industry and in 2004, he was appointed to the President’s Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy. After that he was awarded  the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, the highest civilian honor bestowed by NASA.

He fought traditional thinking along with Mike Brown (#4 on this list) as he supported the decision to remove Pluto as planet, which has resulted in much hate mail especially from children who just love Pluto. He’s also been on shows like The Colbert ReportThe Daily Show, The Late Show with Conan O’Brien, and many others where he is not afraid to correct scientific errors such as on the Daily Show where he pointed out to Jon Stewart that the globe in his opening video is spinning the wrong direction.

Tyson is known for his vibrant character, cheerful demeanor, and awe of the vastness of the universe itself, which makes him a sexy scientist.

Neil deGrasse Tyson 2

Anyways, I hope I have convinced you that there are many more awesome people in science than those who pretend to be on TV. I tried to give an equal depiction of men and women in the field as well as a variety of scientific interests. I had an interest in those who not only did research or practiced medicine but used their career to reach out to the world, really make a difference, and get people excited about scientific discovery. Surely there are more awesome scientists and doctors than I could ever describe because really each one of them is pretty dang awesome in their own way. As someone who is going into medicine and research, these are the people that I really look up to.

If you want to know about even more awesome people, I also asked my twitter followers the other day about their favorite researchers, doctors, and science advocates and here are some of them:

  • Atul Gawande
  • Ben Carson
  • Charles Darwin
  • Albert Einstein
  • Lawrence M. Krauss
  • Jim Al-Khalili
  • Peter Staley
  • Paul Offit
  • Maurice Hilleman
  • “Radium Yttrium” (@DrRubidium)
  • Caleph Wilson (@HeyDrWilson)
  • Bethany Brookshire (@Scicurious)
  • Christy Wilcox (@NerdyChristie)
  • “PalMD” (@palmd)
  • P. Mimi Poinsett MD (@yayayarndiva)
  • Jamila Bey (@jbey)
  • Reyna L. Jones (@ReynaLJones)
  • Dr. Joy Balls-Berry (@jballs1908)
  • Bora Zivkovic (@BoraZ)
  • Dr. Shirley Malcom
  • E.O. Wilson
  • Siddhartha Mukherjee

science rules

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Hanna is a MD/PhD student at the University of Illinois and an aspiring physician scientist who aims to specialize in hepatobiliary cancers. She is also passionate about teaching, leadership, and advocacy. The energy she once used to pep up crowds as a college marching band member is now directed toward exciting and educating others about science and medicine, especially through her tweets at @MDPhDToBe and her blog at www.mdphdtobe.com.

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Posted in General Interest, Science Writing
2 comments on “Science is Sexy
  1. Dino says:

    This is a fantastic post! Really enjoyed reading. 🙂

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