Thinking Critically About Social Issues Using a Scientific Lens

One of my favorite pieces of scientific literature is "Sex/Gender: Biology in a Social World" by the Biology and Gender Studies Professor, Anne Fausto-Sterling. She amazingly states that there is either a feeling of intimidation or boredom when one outside the field of science is introduced to a biologist. It could begin with a sense of dread that ensues due to the reminder of how bad one performed in the subject during their earlier schooldays OR a lack of understanding of how science could provide any importance to social issues in opposition to those in the field of Philosophy, Literature, Social Sciences, etc.. But, we also come across individuals who express a sense of inadequacy that they are overcome with, for they feel they are incapable of contributing any thoughtful conversation to the topic of science.

For I come from both worlds: Science and Comparative Literature. As an undergraduate student attending San Francisco State University, I had the opportunity to delve fully into both fields. Therefore, it has always been my hope to merge these two studies and serve to interest a greater audience on popular topics that they understand and are able to think critically about in a casual yet educational approach.

I believe I have been able to take advantage of 2 opportunities that channel this merged world. One has been through my Science Communications course, where I am granted the freedom to express my enthusiasm towards a scientific topic that completely fascinates my interest. The topic of mental health is a social issue that has been presented to many and a great population have been affected by behavioral disorders and mental illness, either at a great extreme or rather subtly. This topic is covered more widely in another blog post I had shared which links the project that I have been working on.

The other instance is the one that influences me academically as a CMB Master's candidate, for it is my research topic. Tackling the topic of fertility in males is a social issue that doesn't get much attention, as seen with the topic of mental health. These are issues that can be thought about critically without having to be a biologist or even any individual in the field of science. As individuals we have reactions to certain social topics which stimulate an opportunity to analyze the matter, which could potentially lead to a search for more information on the topic.

Studying the role of histone variants, HTAS-1 and HTZ-1, can help in determining what is responsible for the unidentifiable causes in relation to male infertility. Hopefully as I have done with my engagement project, I can find a way to effectively communicate the importance of this topic to both scientists and non-scientists. Finding a way to make it both educational and intriguing enough to stimulate critical thinking. I've used a staining of a C. elegans gonad, indicating where HTAS-1 gets localized in the germline. Images are a great way in which to get an individual's attention through the power of aesthetics. It allows one to begin questioning what it is they are looking at? what function does this serve? and the questions continue from there.

Hopefully by taking advantage of social media, such as: twitter, instagram, SciComm website, and utilizing my colleague's social media, talk will begin to circulate and the subject of science will hopefully be approached with intrigue and curiosity and no longer with dread and intimidation.