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POST TIME: 9 March, 2018 00:00 00 AM
How 'A Wrinkle in Time' Inspired Female Scientists
ALIA HOYT

How 'A Wrinkle in Time' Inspired Female Scientists

Back in 1962, when ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ was first published, smart, young females who liked science were scarce. But author Madeline L'Engle was nothing if not a visionary, and so was her book's main character, Meg Murry. The science-loving girl who ends up saving her father has captivated girls and boys alike for decades. Now, she's set to rule the silver screen on March 9, when the Disney film hits theatres. Even better than the diverse star-power behind the film _ the cast includes Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling _ is the message Meg continues to send to girls and women today that science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers are decidedly not the boys clubs they once were.

Let’s look at three modern-day Megs to find out how they were inspired by the character's bravery, ambition and intelligence to pursue real-life scientific success.

The Neuropsychologist

Amy Serin is a successful neuropsychologist. "It was 1984 and almost unheard of to have a female heroine who I could identify with in a book," says the Serin Center founder and chief science officer and co-founder of Touchpoint Solution. "I loved the book so much I actually wrote to Madeline L'Engle and to my surprise she wrote back! We became pen pals for a short time when I was in the third or fourth grade. She encouraged me to follow my dreams and her responses really helped encourage me."

Meg was far more than a fictional character to Serin: "Reading the book helped me to identify that it was OK that I wasn't like other girls and that I should follow my passion and curiosity."

Today, Serin devotes her professional life to helping people who struggle with debilitating neurological disorders like anxiety, PTSD and depression.

The Doctor-Turned-Inventor

Much of the story is about Meg's quest to find her father throughout space and time, but Dr Amy Baxter zeroed in immediately on Meg's mother, who was a microbiologist. "Of course I was inspired by Mrs Murry out in the garage with her lab equipment," she says. "Mrs Murry was the ultimate balanced scientist mom – the nurturing skills to make hot cocoa when the kids needed it, the presence and power to let the kids take care of what they should be able to, the will to plug forward even when her husband was gone. Sometimes she didn't leave the lab, and that was OK. She was a role model for science-balance."

Like many, Dr Baxter also felt a powerful connection to Meg. "It was the first time I was introduced to a female protagonist who felt ostracized for being smart, and was loved anyway – and whose love for others saved the day," she recalls.

The book led to Dr Baxter's eventual success as a 20-year emergency room physician-turned-inventor. "Even though I practiced medicine, my career ended up pivoting on something I made in my basement," she explains.

That something is a device she invented to block needle pain, which gained traction as a way to avoid using opioids post-surgery. She promptly quit practicing medicine and devoted herself to fine-tuning a larger, wearable version of the device known as VibraCool, often used to help with pain management for knee and elbow issues.

The Mathematician

The concept of time travel itself played a huge part in the career path of Abbe Herzig, currently a professor in the Department of Educational Theory and Practice at the University of Albany, New York. "I have always been fascinated by the concept of time. What is time? Is time travel possible? There are intriguing paradoxes and puzzles associated with time travel and the nature of the passage of time," she says. "A Wrinkle in Time was one of the first books I read as a child that dealt with these ideas, and turned me into a lifelong time-geek."

The book's gentle push has since led her to explore many areas of science, time and even time travel. "My academic focus has always been mathematics, and my mathematical skills coupled with my time obsession have led me to take physics courses and read a lot about science," she says. She enjoys researching and collecting different types of clocks, and also loves investigating the various calendars created throughout history.

Source: howstuffworks.com