A memoir-manifesto from the first female director of the National Science Foundation about the entrenched sexism in science, the elaborate detours women have taken to bypass the problem, and how to fix the system.
In the chapters on cholera and on her work on anthrax Colwell manages with her enthusiasm and vivid prose to share her elation and triumphs even with a non-scientist, though as she notes very often mere scientific success was never a guarantee of recognition, or a smooth upward progression up the career ladder comparable to that of male scientists similarly qualified .. While these closing chapters are not as polished as those preceding them they include some useful observations relative, for example, to anti-discrimination legislation being the bare minimum requirement for change; and to the need for scientists to stop being “unidimensional personalities” and to embrace the humanities as she has done, as well as learning about and working in administration, business, and politics. The era of the pure nerd seems happily to be over, at least in Colwell’s own lab.
...[a] beautifully written memoir ... While readers may not be surprised to learn that science is a male-dominated field, the stories the author recounts from her decades of experience as a researcher, educator, society president, and entrepreneur are shocking in their scope ... In deliberate and often captivating prose, she describes time after time when she created opportunities for herself and for her female peers and students ... Colwell’s grit and brilliance shine through on every page of the book, which is as much a call to arms as it is autobiography. An unforgettable tell-all that’s rife with details of insurrection, scientific breakthrough, and overcoming the odds.
Colwell...first female director of the National Science Foundation, delivers a well-intentioned but disappointing career memoir ... Some of her experiences make for potentially enjoyable stories, such as the research she conducted into cholera transmission at a remote research station in Bangladesh ... Unfortunately, these and other triumphs are rendered in a stilted writing style, and Colwell’s undeniably impressive track record is marred by excess self-praise. Young women considering careers in science may profit from reading about her experiences, but other readers need not apply.