My life as a female with a passion for science….

Art by Linda Allison.

I was born to Air Force parents in 1956 in the grand old country of Great Britain.

When I was in elementary school I fell in love with science and leadership. This was in the early 60s. I was told by all teachers and school counselors that science and leadership were for boys only. This shaping of my future was conducted assiduously all throughout my K-12 and University careers. But, I persisted.

I earned a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts with Distinction that included studies in filmmaking, art history, modern dance, philosophy, history and liberal arts versions of anthropology, linguistics, psychology, history of science, chemistry and zoology. I had kids, became a poet, literary publisher (www.oraculartree.com) and dancer while supporting myself in the usual types of jobs open to females. After my kids were of sufficient age and after 25 years of studying women’s history and feminism, I decided women should do anything their hearts told them to do. I went back to school to pursue an advanced science degree.

I started my Ph.D. in Human Physiology (a hard science) in 2005 at the age of 49 after being out of school since 1981, when had I earned my BFA. I had no rigorous science background. All the other Ph.D. students had Master’s degrees in Science fields and had worked in science their whole careers. My first stats class was a grad level course. In seven years I undertook undergrad science, masters science, and Ph.D. science classes and ended with a 3.66 GPA overall during which time everyone wondered why I took so many classes — well, I had to learn to do what they already knew how to do, didn’t I?

During that time I designed and ran experiments resulting in three peer-reviewed, published science papers. Three more from those original studies on are on deck. I was 56 when I completed my Ph.D.

I financed my Ph.D. training and subsequent career by writing internationally competitive grants and teaching. Every step of the way I was told by all and sundry that my unfolding accomplishments were meaningless and I was stupid for putting time and effort into them because I was an older woman. I brought 40,000 dollars in grant money into the department that awarded my Ph.D., but not one person in that department ever acknowledged that, but gave merit awards to other standard issue type persons bringing 200–1000 dollars into the department. I can’t count the number of academics who have told me no one would ever hire me due to my age. Yes, age discrimination is against the law, so that should tell you something about how protected these people are.

Nevertheless, I have persisted. Now, people are reading and citing my work (https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Teresa_Hawkes). They don’t know I am an older woman so they don’t avoid seeing my work has value and times have changed since the early 60s. Women are now pursuing accomplishments in all human fields of endeavor. So, I say to all people not in the accepted over-class of persons by gender, ethnicity and age, pursue your dreams. Persist. Contribute your accomplishments to the world. You can do this!