Hannah Openshaw: femininephysics

1) WHO ARE YOU? TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF, HEY, EVEN BRAG A LITTLE.

I am a half Danish, final year physics undergraduate at the university of Sheffield in the UK. Only recently have I found that combining physics and the arts is the perfect way of bringing together my two passions, whilst also providing a new medium to educate the public in science and important issues, therefore I am currently applying for master’s degree in science communication.
In my spare time, I sometimes write music (www.soundcloud.com/hanope) and paint.


2) TELL US ABOUT THE WORK YOU ARE DOING AND WHY IT IS IMPORTANT.

Throughout my years of study, people seem surprised to discover I am a physicist due to the stereotypes deep rooted within our culture (“but you don’t look like a physicist”). Physics as a subject has one of the largest gender imbalances in the UK, (why this is we don’t yet fully know) and we desperately need more women to pursue the STEM subjects.  
On every social media platform, you are bound to come across a grainy beautiful image of a girl reading in a café; who wouldn’t want to be like that girl? Yet photos of women doing science will never get this romantic portrayal, instead they are stark and boring, or don’t exist at all! My project is the Instagram account @femininephysics and it serves to leak soft attractive pictures of real women physicists into modern media, hoping to influence teenage girls and general perceptions that femininity and physics can exist in glorious harmony.   

 

3) WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME CHALLENGES IN PURSUING THIS WORK?

As femininephysics is a new endeavor, there have been no major setbacks yet. I think in the future, a challenge will be to fit in time to continually find new scenes and settings to place the women in, to create a diverse range of images and keep the pace up. There will no doubt be skeptics as to whether physics should be depicted in a gendered manner and should be kept “neutral”, but therein lies the problem as although the content of physics is gender neutral, the stereotypes are not.   

4) WHERE AND HOW CAN WE SUPPORT YOU IN YOUR QUEST?

The best way to support this work would be to spread the word and the images. We might end up featuring submissions or “Woman Crush Wednesdays” when the project has grown, but for now sharing the posts and using the hashtag #femininephysics on Instagram would be wonderful.   

 

5) WHO INSPIRES YOU?

The people who most inspire me are probably my parents. My mother, a strong danish woman with a degree in mechanical engineering and my father with his insatiable thirst for knowledge both act as great role models and helped keep up my confidence levels when so many girls lost theirs.
Another inspirational collective is Girl Gang Sheffield, who aim to promote confidence and creativity in Sheffield’s women by holding fun, informative and quirky events. 

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