Sometime ago, I asked Aya if she knew exactly what kind of work we do. Turned out that she didn’t. So I told her: “We’re scientists. You know, I do experiments everyday, just like the experiments we do at home. Tatay does stuffs on the computer. We’re both hakase.” Hakase (??) refers to someone who holds a doctorate. Aya knows this word because she watches Powerpuff Girls on TV, so I thought I’d use the word to give her an idea. In the cartoon series, the girls refer to Prof. Utonium as “hakase.”
Aya laughed out loud and said: “Eh? Hakase si Tatay? Ikaw rin? Pano ka naging hakase eh babae ka?” (What? Dad is a PhD? And you too? How could you be one when you’re a woman?)
Thanks a lot to the people who created Powerpuff Girls. You’ve inadvertently given my daughter the erroneous idea that for someone to be called Dr. or hakase, that someone has to be a man. But for now, I’ll reserve my rants about gender issues in another blog entry.
I couldn’t forget that incident, because it illustrated perfectly how many of our misconceptions could start early on in our lives, no thanks to the crap that we are inevitably fed by the media, friends and families, the very environment we grow up in. The images we see on TV or movies are very powerful in influencing our perception of so many things. (Image taken from www.tv.com)
When someone mentions the word, “scientist,” what kind of images do you usually conjure in your mind? Let me guess. White, male, wearing a white lab coat. Wears glasses. Disheveled appearance. Either bald or has unusually long, unkempt hair. Has that kind of out-of-this-world wild look in his eyes. Unless we meet real people who go against our preconceived ideas, we’re probably not likely to change (those ideas).
Nothing could be further from the truth. There’s a wide spectrum of people who call themselves scientists, and no one fits into a strict stereotype like the ones portrayed by the media. The scientists I work with are very down-to-earth people who are very much, well, normal. And besides, I married one of them. Admittedly, you could argue that because I’ve been working and living with them for so long, I couldn’t distinguish freaks from normal ones anymore.
Perhaps this latest comment from a reader (Noel) aptly describes it:
anyway, i think one of the reasons why there are few pinoy scientists is that we pinoys dont know what scientists do. i, for one, always associate scientists with dexter and his lab. you know, white lab gown, spending long time working alone in their secret laboratory, and so on.
I also find it rather amusing that Pinoys would treat PhD holders with some kind of deference – by calling them “Doc (insert name here).” Personally I feel uncomfortable when someone refers to me as “Doc Kathy.” I don’t like being singled out. It’s bad enough that I am not exactly gifted with extraordinary social skills. I could be rather awkward among other people. Adding a title to my name in an otherwise perfectly normal conversation makes me feel like I’m being put on a pedestal that I don’t really deserve. No offense to those who want to relish their well-deserved (of course it is, because you worked hard to obtain it) titles and would make an effort that everyone else on planet earth would acknowledge it. I just don’t see the need to use it except on a business card.
What it boils down to is this: being a scientist is just another profession. A calling, if you wish.
Some people also have the illusion that if you’re a scientist, then you must be earning a lot of money. The truth is, unless you work for a big-time industrial company, you’re likely to start with a relatively small salary. To move to a higher salary rung, you have to patiently climb the academic ladder like everyone else. And the way to the top isn’t a bed of roses either. Don’t take my word for it: read about scientists and their worth.
And I guess, this is part of the reason why I’ve decided to keep and maintain this blog. Because being a scientist is but a role in my life. There are other aspects of my life that deserve being told: as a mom, daughter, wife, Filipino. Each role is unique, and overlapping roles make my life a tad more challenging.
And perhaps, just perhaps, this would help dispel the idea that scientists only live in a world that nobody else understands.