Hope Jahren runs the geobiology lab at the University of Hawaii Manoa that bears her name, The Jahren Lab, where scientists study things like the carbon isotope composition of terrestrial land plants. But just because Jahren is brainy, it doesn’t mean she can’t also enjoy showing off her manicure. Jahren noticed that Seventeen magazine regularly invites its readers to share a photo of their nails on Twitter with the hashtag #ManicureMonday. Jahren thought, why not invite female scientists to contribute to this Twitter hashtag in the hopes of changing girls’ perceptions of what it means to be a scientist?
She tweeted her idea and it took off, attracting such manicure photos as that of Sarah Hörst, working on a post-doctorate in Astrophysics at the University of Colorado, who posed her glossy planet-themed nail next to a tiny model of the Mars Rover. Jahren recently tweeted a photo of herself holding a dish of algal infections, which she described as “the bane of our existence here in @JahrenLab.” Other scientists posted photos of their nails gripping beakers or ferns or measuring fossils or accessorizing with leaf insect nymphs.
Young women checking out the Seventeen hashtag responded by tweeting questions to the scientists, and just may have had their minds changed about what a typical scientist looks like. Jahren told Laura Vanderkam of USA Today, “I like to have pretty nails and cute shoes and makeup and dresses, and I do care about the way I look. But I am also very serious about my science, and these two things are not incompatible.” The scientist manicure photos, which continue to appear, sound like a fun Twitter game that just might get girls to consider the important academic field.