Thursday, August 1, 2013

New Feature: Stylish Scientists

Ever since my undergraduate education, I have admired female scientists and have felt a special admiration towards those 'chic' ones around me who always looked really well-put together. These women were and are an enormous source of inspiration for me because they are not only very smart and successful, but also beautiful, kind, sophisticated, and stylish. I’ve met these women everywhere throughout my studies and scientific career, and, once I started my blog this year, I decided to share my love for science and fashion through this new and exciting weekly feature of 'Stylish Scientists'. 

'Stylish Scientists' will bring you an exclusive peek at women in academia and their style. Each entry in this series will feature one stylish scientist, insight into the scientific world and laboratory environment, and an interview about the opinions and perceptions of style in academia. The motto of the 'Stylish Scientist' is: "Always look chic while making a discovery!"
I hope you'll enjoy!

Where are you right now in your science carrier?
I am entering my fourth year as a PhD candidate in Genetics and Development.

Your earliest fashion memory
Trying on my mother's costume jewelry and funky accessories when I was a kid and absolutely insisting on wearing bright, floral dressy-dresses to kindergarten. EVERYDAY.

Who and what has influenced your style?
Style mainly came from my mother (she'd be flattered to know this!)-- she dressed me well, I was that cool kid with the off-the-shoulder sweater, faded jeans, and high boots -- which brings me to my next influence: the 80's! Wish I were born a decade earlier so I could have really appreciated that fashion era but certain styles and characters from movies filmed in the 80's greatly shaped my style from my early years. Then I totally had to look like the super cool Swedish chicks from A*Teens with the cropped tees and tight capri pants. And it goes on and on. But over the past few years, I would say my greatest fashion influence has been bits and pieces of certain designer styles that inspire me when I peruse the shops ;)

Your favorite brands and places to shop
My favorite places to shop include H&M, White House Black Market (my new obsession!-- this store was specifically MADE for me), and The Limited. I also tend to find good stuff in the department stores such as Macy's, Bloomingdales, Nordstrom, and Lord & Taylor. Some of my favorite brands include Ralph Lauren, Hudson, Michael Kors, and Seven for all Mankind. 

Since you live in NYC, how does the city inspire you in your style choices?
Living in New York for several years has inspired me to adopt a 'multidimensional-multicultural' perspective that I've embraced in several aspects of my life, one of which is my sense of fashion and style. Aside from the fact that NYC is the fashion "Mothership" and I'm only a subway ride away from the hottest shops and designer boutiques, the city provides me with this avante-garde feeling, encouraging me to mix and match more. Amidst the juxtaposition of the classic Brownstones with modern glass-windowed flats, I develop new styles everyday by 'inventing' new and fresh combinations of colors, textures, and accessories that reflects my cultural exposure and that I most likely wouldn't have thought to put together had I have lived elsewhere.  It's not so much that I'm following particular designer collections or attending fashion shows more because I'm in the city, it's just a desire to explore more and take some risks when it comes to constructing my look. So even though I'm shopping in the same stores you would find in say, New Jersey or Connecticut, my experiences in NY have influenced my creativity and ability to revolutionize my own personal look that I like to call, "sexy-meets-chic-meets-smart-meets-GINA" & can basically be anything I want! ;)

Your everyday science uniform
My everyday science uniform = stylish blouse, denim or black pants, high heels, cute dangling necklace with matching earrings... + the lab coat! 

What do you think about dressing nicely while doing experiments? 
I like to dress in style everyday (perhaps I have selected the wrong profession!) but I do try to be practical with how I dress when working with reagents that could damage my beautiful couture. For such occasions, I have fashioned my own "closet" in lab, fully equipped with more scientist-like (simple, plain, cheap) clothes and flat shoes or sneakers. However, if I decide to go all-out with my Hudson jeans and White House Black Market blouse on a day I'll be working with messy bacteria, I am EXTRA careful and always wear my lab coat! 

Any thoughts about how the general public perceives scientists and their appearance?
The stigma: scientists appear unfashionable, slovenly, sloppy, unkempt, ..[insert more adjectives for messy]. They do not care about the clothes they put on their backs, just the thoughts they brew in their minds. For some, this is due to a genuine lack of interest and sense of style, while for others, it's about showing the world they're too smart and busy to care about the clothes they wear in an effort to be respected and taken seriously.

How do scientists perceive scientist that dress stylishly?
Unless you're wearing headphones and blind folders to distract you from your surroundings, you have to have tough skin to walk around the lab in style on a daily basis. There is definitely an underlying condescending attitude towards people who dress nicely & clearly care about their appearance because it does not conform to the typical image of a scientist. Moreover, there's the potential judgment you may receive, that is, being perceived based off of your looks and not you brains. Be mindful of this-- all of these factors can make going to work a little awkward... So proceed with caution because your overall image may invite both wanted and unwanted attention that will bring about compliments, dirty looks, and gossip. Despite these undesirable consequences, bear in mind that dressing stylish is simply an expression of oneself -- a physical manifestation of a person's individuality, so if at the end of the day, you don't care what people think and your attire is still appropriate, go all out with the bright colors, bangles and stilettos!

Do you have any advice about laboratory dress code?
Even on your most fashionable day, abide by some variation of the laboratory dress code-- I say variation because I've noticed this is a bit different from lab to lab but use your judgment! Decide what body parts/areas need to be covered as you work. My rule of thumb: no leg or arm exposure and shoes with minimal skin exposure (or throw a latex glove over your foot!). I'm usually fine as long as I wear a lab coat and keep my feet under my bench as I work with chemicals.

Pictures taken and edited by me.


  1. I love your motto: "Always look chic while making a discovery!" Excellent series, can't wait for more!

    much love,

  2. Love your Stylish Scientist series! I'm a biologist who also love to add a little style even if I'm in the lab by myself for the day or it's hidden under a lab coat. At first I got a lot of "Why are you so dressed up?" but that soon it went to "You look nice today" and now it is just an accepted part of me. We are not ugly, stuffy, frumpy women; we are pretty, smart, and chic scientists. Keep up the good work and stop by my science blog anytime and say Hi!


  3. This is so great. I'm a female biologist working in the pharmaceutical industry, and i like to think I'm pretty intelligent, but I'm into fashion too, and dressing stylishly at my work (even though part of that work takes place in a lab) is important to my professional drive, creativity, and enthusiasm. However, I've noticed a disturbing trend among female scientists in my workplace, to dress in a way that is extremely dowdy, bland, and androgenous. The connotation seems to be that if you dress nice, you either a) won't be taken seriously as a scientist or b) must not be that intelligent, since no great scientists pay attention to anything as trite as fashion or c) will call "too much" attention to your femininity and thereby undermine your professional credibility in what is still largely a male-dominated field. I find this message to be a dangerous one, and just plain wrong. I am not saying everyone has to come to work dressed to the nines, but we should all - even women - be encouraged to put our best foot forward, take pride in our appearance, and embrace our creativity and femininity through our personal style. Brainy does not have to equal dowdy - and encouraging women to suppress themselves each and every day just stinks. I love that you started this blog to show that women scientists can be smart, capable, and stylish. That's a great thing and i hope it changes some of the biases of our field going forward.