Defying stereotypes


In this issue:
Punks who publish

Introduction to the series 

Milo Aukerman of Descendents:
A champion of the nerds

Dexter Holland of The Offspring:
Keep 'em separated

Greg Graffin of Bad Religion:
Against the grain

Imagine you are at a social event, such as a wedding reception or a birthday party. Between toasts and appetizers, somebody asks you what you do. For most people, it’s not a big deal to answer the question. But for you, as scientists, it’s a dreaded question, because as soon as you announce your profession, you pretty much know what the reaction will be.
Scientists are assumed to be socially inept and far too smart for mere mortals. While people in other professions are understood to come in all shapes and sizes, those of us with lives in science are defined by caricature: Only certain kinds of people are scientists, and scientists are only certain kinds of people.
In a series of articles launching in this issue of ASBMB Today, we aim to alter, if not completely vanquish, this stereotypical image of a scientist. The series presents profiles of individuals who have scientific know-how but who have made their names in completely different fields. Some of those featured might be obvious; others might surprise you. In some cases, science clearly has inspired their current work; in others, science has served as only a stepping stone along their career paths. Regardless of how those featured in this series got to where they are now, their stories demonstrate that having a science background doesn’t limit the possibilities of what someone can accomplish.
The series comes at a time when scientists increasingly are striking paths away from the lab bench. The number of workers with STEM Ph.D.s employed in academia has decreased by nearly 20 percent since 1973, with almost 30 percent now employed in nonresearch positions. Setting aside the implications for the future of the scientific enterprise, these trends show that the traditional, stereotypical view of scientists is crumbling.
The series also will explore how the characteristics and qualities that make scientists who they are also make musicians, athletes, artists and others who they are. Our hope is that nonscientist readers will appreciate that being a scientist doesn’t mean anything other than enjoying science and that scientist readers will appreciate that they have what it takes to do anything they want. Hence the name of this series: “Defying stereotypes.”