Physicist writes Wikipedia pages for STEM pioneers

Throughout history, women scientists, engineers and mathematicians have changed the world. But while their accomplishments have been massive, their names and stories have rarely been made public. Physicist Jess Wade wanted to share the stories of great STEM pioneers that may be overlooked — and she found a unique way to do it: write Wikipedia pages.

Wade told CBS News that although the number of women in STEM is small compared to men, she has always had role models in the field, including her doctor mother.

“Although the number of female professors in a physics department is quite low, you are really aware and you are really inspired by those you interact with,” said Wade, a researcher at Imperial College London. “So certainly being surrounded and inspired by women was really important for me to find out who I am as a scientist.”

When she was a graduate student, Wade met another inspirational woman in STEM, Kim Cobb.

Physicist Jess Wade wanted to share the stories of great STEM pioneers that may be overlooked — and she found a unique way to do it: write Wikipedia pages.  / Credit: Jess Wade

Physicist Jess Wade wanted to share the stories of great STEM pioneers that may be overlooked — and she found a unique way to do it: write Wikipedia pages. / Credit: Jess Wade

“She’s one of those people you meet and you’re like, ‘How can a person be so awesome?'” Wade said of Cobb, a Brown University climatologist who studies the impact of climate change. humans on climate change.

“So when I met her I thought she was a great person and I need to know more about her. When I did a little research I couldn’t find any information about him being in the same place. What I wanted was to find a Wikipedia page and a Wikipedia page was not there.”

This is how Wade got the idea to start writing Wikipedia pages for various people in STEM who don’t have them yet.

“I was really interested in ways that we could try to improve that diversity, but also improve how we celebrate and honor incredible scientists from historically marginalized backgrounds – so women, people of color or people LGBTQ+ – who historically have been underrepresented in science,” she said.

In her spare time, Wade scours the internet to gather information, then she gets to work writing Wikipedia pages. She has written more than 1,700 to date. She said it was always shocking to her when someone notable didn’t have a page – but a few stood out.

Like Kizzmekia Corbett, a viral immunologist and assistant professor at Harvard who developed the way to artificially create advanced proteins to create the Moderna MRNA COVID-19 Vaccine in 2020.

President Biden wears a protective mask as he greets Kizzmekia Corbett, immunologist at the National Institutes of Health's Vaccine Research Center, during a tour in Bethesda, Maryland, February 11, 2021. / Credit: Oliver Contreras/Sipa/ Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden wears a protective mask as he greets Kizzmekia Corbett, immunologist at the National Institutes of Health’s Vaccine Research Center, during a tour in Bethesda, Maryland, February 11, 2021. / Credit: Oliver Contreras/Sipa/ Bloomberg via Getty Images

“If you think about the kind of people who have probably had the most impact on all of our lives, over the last two years, Kizzie is way up high, isn’t she. She’s the world leader for facilitate some sort of return to normality,” Wade said. .

“Another absolutely amazing person who I thought had a super interesting story that wasn’t on Wikipedia was a linguist called Elizabeth Sudmeier, who was actually behind the creation of the Central Intelligence Group, which became the CIA,” Wade said. “She was there as a woman, as a sort of trailblazer, paving the way for all the sophisticated technologies that the United States was beginning to create and exploit.”

She also noted the page she wrote for June Lindsey, who was instrumental in discovering the structure of DNA.

Wade is now making a name for herself in STEM, and she knows she wouldn’t be here without those who came before her. “Wikipedia is only a small part of that, but we all have a role to play in making science a more diverse, fairer, and more equal place,” she said.

She said others can also shine the spotlight on STEM pioneers. “Talk about scientists from historically marginalized groups in your classes, talk about them with your kids. The sky’s the limit,” she said.

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