She overcame bias as a woman in science. Her memoir is testimony.

by Barbara Spindel, CSM Contributor from United States

Lindy Elkins-Tanton, lead scientist for NASA’s Psyche mission, describes challenges and successes in “A Portrait of the Scientist as a Young Woman.” 

148868Lindy Elkins-Tanton is the author of "A Portrait of the Scientist as a Young Woman."Bill Ingalls/Zuma Wire/Newscom/File

When Lindy Elkins-Tanton applied to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the high school math teacher who wrote her recommendation told her, “You’ll never get in.” She proved him wrong, but throughout an extraordinary career in the planetary sciences she has often been made to question whether she, as a woman, belonged. In “A Portrait of the Scientist as a Young Woman,” Dr. Elkins-Tanton chronicles her traumatic childhood, the solace she discovered in scientific inquiry, and her achievements. In addition to being the vice president of Arizona State University’s Interplanetary Initiative, she is the principal investigator of NASA’s Psyche mission, an 11-year, $800 million effort by a team of 800 to launch a spacecraft to explore the massive asteroid Psyche. The launch is expected sometime in the next two years. She spoke with the Monitor recently.

How did you deal with being made to feel like an outsider as a woman in science? 

It was interesting for me to see those experiences add up as I was writing the book. In some places those words really stuck with me, like with my math teacher: “I must not be good at math.” It’s something I rail against – why is it OK to say girls aren’t good at math? 

You worked in business for eight years before returning to MIT for your Ph.D. in geology and geophysics. How did your early management consulting experience inform your work in science?

Everything that people do is about people working together, no matter the topic. So thinking about how we can work together best is always fruitful. Trying to create change in teams has been instrumental in helping me get where I am in my career. 

Page created on 7/21/2022 1:54:31 PM

Last edited 7/21/2022 2:25:39 PM

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