Meet Michelle C. Today, she’s an Analytical Chemist at DuPont. Not too long ago she was a New Orleans Saints cheerleader. Surprised? For crying out loud how many times have we told you about the pro-cheerleaders-turned-scientists? Wait until you see how many more we’ve uncovered! I still think my home-town Eagles cheerleaders would win a Cheerleaders-as-Scientists Superbowl.
Back to Michele C. Here’s her story:
“Why chemistry? I can’t explain it but I just fell in love with chemistry in high school and by the time I was in college, I looked forward to going to chemistry labs. I didn’t care how much time I spent in the labs, I loved it! I did so well in my first couple of labs that the professor approached me and asked me if I ever considered getting a degree in chemistry. (At the time I was planning to go to pharmacy school.) When she told me I could get a job doing lab work analysis and instrumentation it caught my interest. I went home and discussed this with my Dad who worked in a chemical plant and he explained to me that there were chemists who worked in the labs at his plant. Before this, it wasn’t clear to me what a chemist did.
Once I approached my final year of college I applied for a co-op program with a local chemical company. Many people suggested I add “NFL Cheerleader” to my resume because it would demonstrate that I was able to earn good grades, manage a job, and find time to handle the responsibilities that come with being a cheerleader.
Well, it almost cost me my first job! I found out later that one of the chemist was dead set against interviewing me because he didn’t think I’d be smart enough and I’d be “too worried about my hair and makeup” as he later told me. Fortunately for me, he was out the day I was interviewed and offered the job. Turns out the company extended my employment beyond the traditional term of one semester.
I will never forget my “farewell” gathering. The chemist who was dead set against hiring me stood up and told me he owed me an apology. He said he immediately stereotyped me as a “dumb cheerleader” and assumed I would be an awful chemist – he said I proved him wrong and he said I was one of his favorite and best students to ever come through the program. I just smiled. Knowing that I helped break a stereotype made me feel great. (Although still today I get “wait, you were an NFL cheerleader? And you are a chemist? That just doesn’t sound right”. )
I danced with several girls who had their PhD’s, Masters etc and it’s our obligation to share this duality with the public in an effort to help young girls feel comfortable following all of their dreams (and to help them understand how important education is and frankly how much fun science can be).
GOOOO Science and GOOOO Saints!