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What a Scientist Looks Like

Learn how today's scientists are working to update people's perceptions of science, how it's done and who scientists are

Kids form cultural impressions early, deciding where and how they'll fit into the world. Unfortunately, they don’t see science in their future often enough. Children as young as kindergarteners, when asked to draw a scientist, are likely to make a picture of a white man in a white lab coat (See Start Science Sooner—and they don't see themselves that way.

But what if they saw that scientists come in all shapes and colors? And what if they saw how cool science actually is as a career? An absolutely charming site This Is What a Scientist Looks Like invites scientists to change perceptions about what a scientist is or isn't by being themselves: contributors submit their picture and a short description about what they do. Allie Wilkinson, freelance science communicator and social media specialist, created the site to challenge cultural impressions. "The feedback for the project that I have seen across social media has been incredible both in quantity and enthusiasm," she told me in an e-mail. "My inbox is overflowing with scientists, and each time I see the new submissions, I can't help but smile at all of the heartwarming, fun or quirky photos that are coming in."

So we invite you to meet some of those scientists by clicking the photos on the right—and, if you're a scientist, maybe you'd like to contribute an image of your own to Wilkinson’s site.

Want more? You may enjoy seeing how student impressions changed in Who's the Scientist?. The site shows drawings of what 7th graders thought scientists looked like before and after they visited Fermilab.

And if you're a teacher or a scientist, you might check out Scientific American's 1,000 Scientists in 1,000 Days, which connects educators with researcher volunteers who are willing to visit the classroom. You can also watch a NY1 video about how a visiting biologist at one New York City school changed impressions.

Last, scientists can share their personal stories at I Am Science and via #iamscience on Twitter, which Scientific American blogger Kevin Zelnio started. See his touching post.—Mariette DiChristina

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