Friday, September 27, 2013

Stylish Scientists: Lizzy

'Stylish Scientists' is a weekly series that brings you an exclusive peek at women in science and their style.  
The motto of the 'Stylish Scientist' is: "Always look chic while making a discovery!"

I'm very excited to feature Liz Harley from "Scientist Chic" blog. Lizzy has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology, and she currently works in London. While brainstorming for 'Stylish Scientists' series I was delighted to come across Lizzy's blog, and I'm happy to share her interesting interview here. 

At what stage of science career are you? 
I finished my PhD earlier this year, and decided that rather than staying in research I wanted an ‘alternate’ science career. So since March I’ve been working for a not-for-profit science communication organization whose focus is on explaining scientific principles to the public, the press and policy-makers. It’s a small team and a really diverse role, I could be preparing a press release one day or attending a political conference the next.  

Tell us briefly about your Ph.D. research 
I studied the evolutionary biology, specifically the evolution of reproductive traits in a cute little insect called the stalk-eyed fly. These little guys are great for studying sexual selection because the length of the eyestalks is a sexual signal, like the tail of a peacock; females just go wild for the guys with the big eyes. I studied ejaculate allocation – do big attractive males put in more sperm per mating or less? – and also spent 5 months living in a hut in the Malaysian jungle studying wild flies. Top tip for biology – pick your study organism carefully! 

Your earliest fashion memory 
My mum bought me these two beautiful floral frocks from Laura Ashley (UK fashion and homewear brand) when I was about 7 or 8, one blue and one rosy pink and I loved them so very much. I also remember going to a Robin Hood themed party when I was little dressed as Maid Marion, and my mum made a gorgeous dress for me using brown Strawberry Thief print fabric from Liberty. I remember thinking why on earth we didn’t wear fun clothes every day, and whenever I get dressed in the morning I always try to make it fun. 

Who influenced your style? 
Tough question! My parents were not very clothing conscious people, but I suspect that my love of really good knitwear comes from them. As a teenager I often tried to emulate the looks I saw in magazines (with limited success), and once I got to University I began experimenting with my clothes (again with mixed results). My friends and I used to egg each other on to try new things – I remember when skinny jeans became all the rage! These days I frequently look to other bloggers for inspiration, but I think mostly I am still buying the things I like and muddling it all together into something wearable. 

scientist chic, stylish scientists, liz harley, science and fashion, science with style, veiled beanie, red maxi skirtHow did the places where you lived influence your style choices? 
London has influenced the way I dress perhaps far more than the other places I’ve called home. British fashion at its best is completely fearless – you can wear anything you want to, just do it with attitude – and London is the best place to experiment in. No one bats an eyelid if you wear a cape in London, but I get some funny sideways looks in other towns! 

Your favorite brands and places to shop 
ASOS and Zara are my favourite highstreet places; ASOS because if you have an idea of what you want, chances are they will have it, and Zara because their collections are so very good every season. As far as designers go, I have been a devoted follower of London brand Antipodium for years, and more recently I’ve fallen in love with a few Scandinavian brands like Ann Sofie Back and Acne. I can’t afford to buy full price designer clothes, but I regularly trawl the Outnet and the ASOS clearance section looking for good deals.

How did you start making clothes? 
I made clothes for my Sylvanian Families! (Calico Critters in the States). I have boxes full of the miniature outfits I made for them. The first dress I made for myself was a complete experiment, made without a pattern on the floor of my bedroom. 

What is your advice to people who want to start making clothes? 
Just give it a try. Dressmaking can be really technical, but it can also be super easy. There are some great ‘no pattern’ dress ideas on YouTube, and that was where I got started. I ran up my first dress in an evening following a YouTube video! 

Your everyday science uniform 
I don’t really have a uniform as such – I try to mix it up each day otherwise I get bored. Most days I will pick a particular item that I want to wear and build an outfit around it. My only requirement is comfortable shoes for slogging across town during my commute! 

Do you dress differently now that you have finished your Ph.D.? 
Only in that my style has moved on since finishing my PhD – I used to have a much more vintage-inspired style with lots of prints and quite a girly silhouette, whereas now I prefer a simpler, more minimalist style. Which handily fits in for a more formal, office environment! 

What do you think about dressing nicely while doing experiments in the lab? 
Do it do it do it! We’re kicking ass and doing science, why shouldn’t we look amazing at the same time? Although obviously don’t wear really nice things if you know you’re going to end up spilling noxious chemicals or fly food all over yourself. 

Any thoughts about how the general public perceives scientists and their appearance? 
The most frequent comment I get is ‘You don’t look like a scientist’, to which my response is usually, ‘Well what should a scientist look like?’ I think sometimes people are surprised by how stylish we can be, but something I have learned through blogging is that there are a lot us sartorially-inclined scientists out there! 

What was your inspiration to start blogging? 
I was in the middle of an intense period of technical experiments and data analysis during my PhD, and I really wanted a creative outlet. I started reading a few blogs before writing my own, but it only took a few months for me to start thinking, “Why don’t I give this a try?” It was fun making my own little corner of internet, getting into the habit of writing more often and starting to experiment with photography. 

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All photos are provided by Lizzy.

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