We are SO lucky to have had a chance to talk to Sophie from the upcoming hit show Science with Sophie!
Asha Loves Science: Thanks so much for talking to us! Tell us a little about you.
Hi there, readers of Asha Loves Science! I am a science educator, actor, and comedian. I currently develop science content at the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago. I’ve worked in science museums for about 6 years, before that doing clinical and bench research. My degrees are in Behavioral Neuroscience and Theatre. I’ve been an actor for over 20 years, and have always been a big proponent of combining science, theatre, and education. I’ve spent my career honing those elements to create my educational style and philosophy.
Asha Loves Science: What made you interested in STEM?
I’ve been curious about the world for as long as I can remember! I have early memories of crouching down on the driveway to check out bugs and inspect plants growing from pavement cracks. I grew up in a family that really valued education, so I was encouraged pretty early on to explore and ask questions. Then, like so many women and girls I know, I went through a period in middle and high school when I thought I wasn’t good at science or math. I found it intimidating, assumed other people were naturally good at it, and didn’t want to look stupid if I didn’t catch on right away. Thankfully, I had a teacher who I call my “real life Ms. Frizzle” - my 10th grade chemistry teacher, who had frizzy hair and a wacky sense of humor, showed me that chemistry is SO FUN. Her class convinced me to study chemistry, and then I found Behavioral Neuroscience in college. It’s a fun, challenging blend of biology, psychology, chemistry, and math.
I love STEM because I love wondering about our world (and beyond!). STEM provides a critical lens through which we can ask about the human condition. Why do we do the things we do? How does everything work? What’s on the horizon for humanity, the planet, the universe? These are questions STEM can help us answer - and, of course, find new questions to ask along the way!
But truly, my love lies in STEAM: the A stands for Art, which is another vitally component of education. As a comedy series, Science With Sophie absolutely puts the A in STEAM.
Asha Loves Science: We are SO excited for your show. Tell us more about Science With Sophie.
Science With Sophie is a science comedy series that encourages girls to think deeply, ask creatively, and be scientists every day. Remember Bill Nye The Science Guy? It’s kind of like that, but with a strong female host. Sophie Science (who is essentially a slightly heightened version of me) and a cast of wacky characters (also played by me) take the audience on adventures around neighborhoods, schools, streets - wherever a kid might find herself - to discover science all around us. We do experiments, interview kids, and meet a diverse array of real women in cool and unexpected jobs to show how varied STEM careers can be.
Asha Loves Science: What inspired you to start Science With Sophie?
Science With Sophie is my answer to the call for more women in STEM. We simply don’t have enough: women make up only 30% of the STEM workforce in the US. Science With Sophie is my fun solution to this serious problem. The goal is to inspire girls from a very young age to explore science, and give them the intrinsic tools they need to follow that interest and pursue STEM careers. Plus, girls deserve to see people who look like them doing science on TV. In over 20 years since Bill Nye’s show, there are no female hosts of science children’s programming, and the vast majority of people doing science in the media are men. Let’s change that by showcasing some incredible women doing real science.
Science With Sophie is a fast-paced, funny show that’s also fun for parents, brothers, grandparents, teachers… the show encourages everyone to think like scientists in daily life. By engaging that wide audience, the show reminds everyone that girls have what it takes to be the next generation of thinkers and leaders.
Asha Loves Science: Why is comedy an important aspect of your show?
I use comedy in all aspects of my career and personal life, because it’s a great way to connect with others, and it’s fun! It is also a great tool for learning: when you laugh, you relax, and you engage. Framing my experiences with comedy helps me notice weird things about the world, and spread that joyful curiosity with everyone I know. This joyful, comedic bent of the show also keeps the audience watching: waiting for the next goof, the next slapstick fall, or fart joke. There are so many fart jokes in this show. Comedy gold.
Physical comedy and silly characters are some of my favorite ways to use humor in this show, because 1) it’s fun for me, and 2) I want to show girls that it’s fun to be goofy, fall down, get back up, and generally take on the world with a light hearted, confident attitude.
Asha Loves Science: What ages would most enjoy Science with Sophie?
The target age range for Science With Sophie is 7 to 14 years old. That’s a big range, and it’s intentional: I want to get girls hooked on these messages as early as possible. At age 7, girls are so naturally curious and inquisitive about the world around them. But, they’re also already getting the message from lots of outside sources (adults, peers, media) that science isn’t for them. I want to combat that with positive examples of women and girls doing science and having a blast, with constant encouragement to the viewer to go out and do science wherever she is at that moment.
The show is designed to be fun and engaging for this wider age range to keep girls’ attention as they enter the perilous pre-teen and adolescent years, when that negative messaging grows exponentially. By watching this show from early ages all the way through the early teen years, girls will be armed with an arsenal of tools to be confident, strong, creative young women.
I use Bill Nye’s show again as an example, because I still think back on that show with tremendous fondness. It’s nostalgic, as well as solid science, so I watched it for years and still do! That’s the goal with my show: to create a lasting relationship with my audience so that they have real-life examples of women being strong, confident, funny, smart scientists.
Asha Loves Science: What do you think are barriers keeping girls and women from ending up in STEM fields?
This one’s a doozy. It’s especially daunting to answer this right now, after the changes we’ve just seen (and are about to experience) in our country.
The gender bias in teaching science has been documented by many, many research studies. Girls are treated differently than boys when it comes to education as early as 18 months of age. That gap only widens as girls grow up, and by the time they’re choosing a career, that gap has taken its toll. The result is a distinct lack of female representation in STEM careers, despite the fact that we are more than half the population!
Of course, the barriers don’t disappear in the event that a girl does choose a career in STEM. She’ll face gender bias in college, in the workplace, in the pay gap, in promotions… it is a rampant issue that needs to end yesterday.
So, what do we do? We educate and empower our girls as early as possible. That is my call to action, and the entire reason I’ve created this show. Girls are overdue strong female science role models in the media, so they can know that women are valued in society as citizens with ideas and solutions worth hearing.
We need women in STEM because we need every voice at the table. We are facing so many problems, and there are so many questions to explore. Having voices from different backgrounds, perspectives, challenges, and solutions will only help us progress as a society. How different would the world be if every decision-maker thought like a scientist, or solved problems like an engineer? We all have a say in the decisions we make as a human race. We need to make the decision to promote women in STEM and beyond.
Asha Loves Science: Where can people get more information about Science With Sophie?
www.sciencewithsophie.com will get you to the fundraising campaign page, which has the teaser video and more information and stats about the show. The campaign ends on November 30, but people can still donate after that if they’d like to continue supporting the show. I have a small team (of mostly women!) that is creating this show independently, so we’re relying on crowd support for now. Check out the website and Facebook page for more updates as we head into production! I’m also on twitter @sciencewithsoph.
Asha Loves Science: Thank you SO much for talking with us! We can't wait to see the Science with Sophie pilot and share it with our readers!