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Author: Women in STEM are More than Marie Curie

Ashton Marra
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

I'd like to start by talking about Marie Curie, and I am going to talk about her to say, we are not going to talk about her.

Rachel Swaby took the stage at the Walker Theater in Charleston as a part of the Higher Education Policy Commission's Division of Science and Research STEM Speaker Series. Swaby, a freelance journalist, published her first book in April titled "Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science- and the World."

"I think it’s easy to say, oh Marie Curie and just check that 'you’ve talked about a woman in science' box, but we should have a breadth of knowledge of many women who have done many amazing things,” Swaby said before her June talk. 

Swaby's book details the lives of 52 women from the science, technology, engineering and math fields. 

One of her favorites ie Yvonne Brill, a rocket scientist who, in the 1970s, invented a satellite propulsion system that's still being used today. 

As a journalist, Swaby said she often finds herself writing about the STEM fields and doesn't encounter much difficulty finding women to write about or talk to, but, she added, many journalists "rely on a rolodex of scientists" they've already been exposed to when writing their stories. 

“There’s not a lack of women in science. There are a lot of women in science, they’re just not being covered as much, and I think they’re not being covered as much because of habit.”

Swaby said she hopes her book inspires conversations to change those habits, both for journalists and young women who may be interested in STEM careers.

The next event in  the Higher Education Policy Commission's Division of Science and Research STEM Speaker Series is scheduled for Thursday evening in Charleston.

Theoretical physicist Dr. Leonard Mlodinow will discuss the development of scientific theories and his book “The Grand Design,” which he co-authored with Stephen Hawking. That event is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at the Culture Center Theater.

Ashton Marra covers the Capitol for West Virginia Public Radio and can be heard weekdays on West Virginia Morning, the station’s daily radio news program. Ashton can also be heard Sunday evenings as she brings you state headlines during NPR’s weekend edition of All Things Considered. She joined the news team in October of 2012.

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