Mummies can be scientists: Meet Dr Elizabeth Boakes

Dr Elizabeth Boakes (@BoakesE ) is a Postdoctoral Research Assistant at UCL. She took part in Soapbox Art & Science London 2017 where she gave a presentation alongside Danica Desilva entitled: “Mind the Gap… in the ecosystem”






I have a vivid memory of herding my children out of the house one summer afternoon in 2011, en route to the first Soapbox Science event.  We met our neighbour on the doorstep who politely enquired where we were going.  My daughter, ever keen for an opportunity to chatter, explained in detail about Soapbox Science finishing up by announcing proudly, ‘My Mummy is a scientist.’  These words have stayed with me.


Soapbox Science speakers never fail to awe me and that first event certainly set the bar high.  I remember my then PI, Professor Georgina Mace, gamely dealing with audience heckling whilst discussing consumption versus population.  One speaker held aloft a knitted breast, another explained the science behind pruning plants.  Most impressive of all, Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock gave her talk holding her toddler on her hip!  I was blown away by the scientific competence and confident engagement styles exhibited by all the speakers.  However, rather than being inspired to emulate them it just deepened the gap I felt between their brilliance and my mediocrity.  Never could I follow them onto a soapbox.


(photo: Lizzie at Soapbox Art & Science London)


Yet one summer afternoon in 2017 I found myself herding my children out of the house to another Soapbox event, this time as a speaker.  Admittedly I was sick with nerves and it was only the heavy giant Jenga that I was lugging along that prevented me from running fast in the opposite direction.  What had happened in those intervening years to persuade me to put my unconfident self through this?  Well, my daughter’s words had resonated with me.  I wanted to show other girls that Mummies can be scientists.  To my surprise it was actually quite fun.  And like Dr Alderin-Pocock I managed it all with my son on my hip!  So if you are thinking of becoming a speaker, or becoming a scientist, or simply considering studying science, please please go for it.  Take it one step at a time and you can reach the Soapbox!

(photo: Painting by Danica Desilva)

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