PERREAULT Magazine AUG | SEP - Page 82

Looking back now, after more than 20 years since I was in her lab and classroom, what is most memorable to me about Marian is her attitude. She owned her classroom and her research lab. She belonged there and she knew it. But this attitude was never expressed in a defiant or angry way. Instead, she always stood powerfully at the front of her classroom and lab, welcoming all students in to share, learn and explore the wonderful world of science with her. She was the ultimate smart, powerful, science rock-star role model not just for women in science but for all people in science. And she was perfectly comfortable with this role.

It wasn’t until I had my own faculty position at New York University that I began thinking about Marian’s ease with her position as role model. Early in my career, I was definitely not comfortable as a role model for anyone. I thought I hadn’t achieved nearly enough to qualify for that kind of position or responsibility. But I understand now it is not about the number of awards you have or the number of children you raised while doing your job. Instead, I see clearly that there were two core elements that made Marian such a great science role model. The first is simple: job satisfaction. She loved her job. And the second is the conscious intention to step up and share your job satisfaction with others.

From my very first day as a young Assistant Professor, I had that first element. I love neuroscience research and teaching. But the second has been more challenging. I was too busy counting my grants and papers and worrying if the number was big enough to qualify me as an inspiration to my students. It was only after I had achieved tenure and started exploring a wider range of science research interests for fun when I realized that sharing my own passion for science

was the key to inspiring my own students.

Why are these key elements of being a role model so important? While we can only mentor a relatively small number of students over the years, we teach many more. And one of the most powerful ways we can touch those students’ lives is by being a strong role model for them. This is even more important for women scientists and in any professions where men outnumber women. I believe this is essential, because something as simple as your attitude as you teach a class or give a presentation can stick with your students for years and years. Twenty eight years after I graduated from Berkeley, I still remember Marian’s attitude on that first day of class: her comfort in her own skin as a mentor, her delight in and fascination with the mysteries of the brain, and her sharing her passion for science. Marian’s attitude and her conscious intention to share her love of science have been so valuable to me and the thousands of other students she has taught over the years.

This is one of the biggest life lessons I have learned:

Own your joy and knowledge of your field and share it generously as a role model.

For me, this is how I pay it forward for the next generation of rock-star women scientists.

Wendy Suzuki, Ph.D.

Professor of Neural Science and Psychology

Center for Neural Science

New York University

Author of “Healthy Brain Happy Life:

A Personal Program to Activate your Brain and Do Everything Better”

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