This being the season, I’d like to take the opportunity to pause and give thanks.
I’m thankful for parents who encouraged my curiosity and never labeled science as something it was inappropriate for me to explore or pursue.
I’m thankful for teachers who didn’t present science as if it were confined within the box of textbooks and homework assignments and tests, but instead offered it as a window through which I could understand ordinary features of my world in a whole new way. A particular teacher who did this was my high school chemistry teacher, Mel Thompson, who bore a striking resemblance to Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and would, on occasion, blow soap bubbles with a gas jet as we took quizzes, setting them alight with a Bunsen burner before they reached the ceiling. Mr. Thompson always conveyed his strong conviction that I could learn anything, and on that basis he was prepared to teach me anything about chemistry that I wanted to learn.
I’m thankful for the awesome array of women who taught me science as an undergraduate and a graduate student, both for their pedagogy and for the examples they provided of different ways to be a woman in science.
I’m thankful for the mentors who have found me and believed in me when I needed help believing in myself.
I’m thankful for the opportunity graduate school gave me to make the transition from learning knowledge other people had built to learning how to build brand new scientific knowledge myself.
I’m thankful that the people who trained me to become a scientist didn’t treat it as a betrayal when I realized that what I really wanted to do was become a philosopher. I’m also thankful for the many, many scientists who have welcomed my philosophical engagement with their scientific work, and who have valued my contributions to the training of their science students.
I’m thankful for my children, through whose eyes I got the chance to relive the wonder of discovering the world and its workings all over again. I’m also thankful to them for getting me to grapple with some of my own unhelpful biases about science, for helping me to get over them.
I’m thankful for the opportunity to make a living pursuing the questions that keep me up at night. I’m thankful that pursuing some of these questions can contribute to scientific practice that builds reliable knowledge while being more humane to its practitioners, to better public understanding of science (and of scientists), and perhaps even to scientists and nonscientists doing a better job of sharing a world with each other.
And, dear readers, I am thankful for you.