A few years ago, Science and Style would hardly be found in the same sentence.
The visual image of a non-mad-scientist who is “elegant”, “polished” and “well-put-together” challenges stereotypes till today.
We had a chat with Erin Winick, Science Communicator and owner, Sci Chi fashion store, to get to know her better, and hear her thoughts on the relationship between Science and Style.
Who is Erin Winick?
Haha, well that is a pretty big question.
I’d describe myself as someone who is passionate about sharing the creativity and innovation in science, engineering, etc.
I have a background in Mechanical Engineering but have found my passion helping inform people about science and technology and show how it can interact with other fields, like art and fashion.
I also describe myself as a science fashionista.
That reminds me of your graphic A-Line skirt with pictures of the moon…
Yes, that’s actually a new addition to my closet!
After I started my 3D printing science jewelry company, I started building up a closet full of science fashion from other creators I loved and got lots of gifts from friends and family.
I imagine it looks a bit like Ms. Frizzle’s casual wardrobe.
(The moon skirt is from Amazon fyi).
Your career journey…How did you become a STEM communicator?
I mentioned I have a degree in Mechanical Engineering, but I’ve always loved science, making, and writing.
I was Editor-in-Chief of my high school paper, so I’ve always had a passion for communicating too.
When I was a kid I really looked up to people like Bill Nye, Neil deGRasse Tyson, and the Mythbusters.
In college, I tried my hand at some more technical freelance writing and did a lot of communication projects related to my businesses.
It made me realize my true passion was science communication and science journalism.
My biggest step that got me down this path as a career was my internship writing for the science and technology section of the Economist in London.
I immediately moved from that to my current role as an associate editor at MIT Technology Review.
It sounds so easy following your journey … were there any challenges along the way?
Haha, I think I’ve just kind of boiled down my career elevator pitch now that it sounds easy but man, it definitely wasn’t.
I had a lot of uncertainty with the choice.
In college I had 4 engineering internships and was seriously considering going down the industry engineer route. But when I realized the things I enjoyed most were writing and speaking on science and running my company, it made the choice easier.
I am someone who has always done a million things at once so I was able to kind of pursue a few options in tandem with doing internships, running and business and writing.
I miss doing some more technical work, but I still get some of that while doing 3D printing for my business and learning and reading about technology every day.
The biggest jump was going full time into my business and writing when I graduated.
It was a hard call, but I’m very glad I did it.
And yes lol pitch. Comes from all the entrepreneurship competition pitches I did.
Let’s talk about your company for a bit. Pitch us your Science Fashion company…
Sci Chic is a business I started in college that makes 3D printed science jewelry in metal and plastic.
The plastic jewelry is targeted at kids, and the metal at adults.
The goal is to use tangible, wearable items to help teach kids about science and 3D printing, and for adults, to spark everyday conversations about science through fashion. That’s also why I personally wear a ton of science fashion all the time.
Without fail it gets people talking about science and engaging with it in new and interesting ways.
I started Sci Chic as an Etsy store in 2015.
Now it has grown to an independent online store, and has partnerships with brands ranging from StarTalk Radio to Princess Awesome.
We’ve been featured on The Weather Channel, CNN Money, and more.
How does one get a piece from your store? Do you ship internationally? Are pieces custom-made…?
We do ship internationally, though of course, shipping is a bit more expensive.
You can find all of our items at scichic.com.
We do some custom work, but the majority of our orders and from all of our existing designs that are inspired by everything from dragonfly wings to the phases of the moon to neurons.
What’s it like being a woman in STEM today?
Luckily I’ve had some pretty good experiences as a woman in STEM.
I have definitely been outnumbered in most of my workplaces and in school.
The hardest thing was normally not seeing other women ahead of me in a company to look up to.
At my current job though at MIT Technology Review, there are a lot of awesome women I work with that edit and write.
The gap is closing slowly. It depends on what areas of science you look like.
I think the biggest challenge we face is trying to create better work cultures and increase retention in the workplace.
Many of the culture issues have developed over a long period of time so its hard to pin it down to one or two things, but I think getting more women in leadership positions can definitely help, and assisting and supporting women can help lift up women to those positions and can make some cultural changes.
More so I’m referring to small things that can occur in workplace conversations, unintentional bias, parental leave benefits, etc.
There are a slew of small things that can help make a big difference.
Again, luckily, I haven’t faced anything major in my workplaces. Sure subtle things here and there, but I feel pretty fortunate.
Science and Style: Is there a place for style in Science?
For one thing, I see a lot of engineering in fashion.
Engineers often create something 3D from something 2D just like someone sewing a garment from fabric.
I have always loved sewing since I was a kid.
I always say the first piece of dangerous machinery I used was a sewing machine.
But on top of that, I think by bringing science into style you are inviting people to talk to you about science, showing you are proud of your knowledge of this area, or it can just give you a chance to show how beautiful science is.
I think even if you are wearing a design that it less obviously science inspired, it has the potential to spark a great conversation if someone just compliments you on the dress in general.
Shenova Fashion’s dresses are a great example of that.
The Sci Chic Trajectory Necklace is another good example.
Meriame Berboucha (another woman in STEM and friend of SA) tweeted recently that someone told her, after giving a talk that ‘You’re too glamorous to be a physicist’ … what’s your response to comments/reactions like these?
First of all, Meriame is awesome. We both met a few times when I was working in London.
Second, it definitely makes me frustrated.
I would say these comments are rooted in older ideas and pictures of the mad scientist look for what people expect from scientists.
The good news is I think people like Meriame talking about it and being on the front lines can help change this perception.
It is again another reason why science communication is so important.
Getting people of all backgrounds and passions on stage talking about science can help create a new idea of what a scientist can be.
To other scholars thinking about taking a plunge into the area of Science Communication…advice?
First, start writing.
It takes practice to build up your skills.
You can do that on social media, on a blog, through your school, or any other connections you might have.
I’d also recommend reaching out to niche publications related to your area of specialty.
This is how I was able to get some of my first paid jobs.
I wrote for engineering.com for a while while I was still in school focusing on mechanical engineering topics. From there you can evolve and move on to bigger publications or outlets.
Then, internships are also great. I made a blog post a while back about some ways to find science journalism and communication internships. You can find that here.
Lastly, I’d also love to give a plug for my work at Tech Review!
Do you have anything to add?
Nope! Just that if you are sporting some science fashion, always feel free to tweet it at me!
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