Monday, 2 February 2015

Who Ya Gonna Call? 4 Real Life Women in STEM who would make awesome Ghostbusters

I read on the interwebs recently that the new Ghostbusters are women! I also read that some people thought this was "unrealistic". So I thought I would check out the original characters and see what is so unrealistic about them being played by women. Why am I blogging about this you may ask? Where is the archaeological connection? Well, it so happens that one of the original Ghostbusters did a PhD in Egyptology! Now it's been many years since I watched the films, and I was of an age where I didn't take in the details of people's professions and whatnot, but that's pretty awesome. And ghosts, you know, archaeology, dead people, cursed artefacts etc. There's a connection in there somewhere.

Dr Watt, Prof Jackson, Prof Ikram & Prof. Ferlaino
The original dudes were parapsychologists. As psychology is a rather large field, I wasn't sure where to start, but I managed to find Dr Caroline Watt, at my own University of Edinburgh, who researches the psychology of paranormal beliefs and experiences, and literally wrote the textbook on parapsychology! She is a founding member of the Koestler Parapsychology Unit, and is a past president of the Parapsychological Association. You can watch a short video about her research here.

Parapsychology also has links with quantum physics, and although I can't quite work out what Egon Spengler's specialism is, he apparently provides the theoretical basis, so quantum physics it is. Professor Francesca Ferlaino, professor of atomic physics at the University of Innsbruck and the Austrian Academy of Sciences, works on ultracold atomic and molecular gases, and something to do with exotic states of matter. I literally cannot say more than that, as quantum physics makes zero sense to me. But it's exciting and inspiring nonetheless - this is the very stuff the universe is made of!

Quantum physicist two, Professor Shirley Ann Jackson, PhD in Theoretical Elementary Particle Physics from MIT, and International Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering. Also worked on crazy invisible particles, all over the world, from the Fermi National Acceleroter Laboratory, to CERN in Switzerland, and has been chairman of the US Nuclear Regularory Commission. She is currently president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the oldest tech research university in the US.

Winston Zeddemore, ex-marine, has a PhD in Egyptology. There are so many women Egyptologists I didn't even know where to start with this one. One of many women doing amazing work in this area is Professor Salima Ikram, at the University of Cairo, who has a PhD in Egyptology and Museum Studies from the University of Cambridge. Author of many books on ancient Egypt and leading expert on animal mummies, she is also frequently seen on the TV on programmes about ancient Egypt and archaeology, and she was an advisor for The Mummy movie. in this sense she is similar to Peter Venkman, the 'public face' of the original Ghostbusters team! It's true that I couldn't find a female marine with a PhD in Egyptology, but my googling for female marines with PhDs turned up a lot of interesting women working in marine biology...

Who ya gonna call? Not only was it easy to find a team of 4, I actually had to choose which ones to include as there are lots of amazing women working in psychology, quantum physics and Egyptology.  And most of them don't have Wikipedia pages, which is now on my to do list for the next women in STEM edit-a-thon.

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