Sophia Spencer, who is from Ontario, worked with Morgan Jackson, who curates the insect collection at the University of Guelph, to write the paper. The topic is a fascinating one; how to use social media to make science more accessible and understandable to the public. The entirely appropriate outcome: the hashtag #BugsR4Girls trended on Twitter.
[image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons]
The result? The Entomological Society of Canada got wind of this, and put out a tweet that said, "A young girl who loves insects is being bullied & needs our support. DM your email & we'll connect you! #BugsR4Girls."
The response was immediate and overwhelming. Sophia got tons of support from scientists, and ultimately got into a conversation with Morgan Jackson. Together they came up with the idea of authoring a paper on the topic of how to use social media in the interests of science -- so that other children who love scientific pursuits won't have to put up with what Sophia did. She writes:
It felt good to have so many people support me, and it was cool to see other girls and grown-ups studying bugs. It made me feel like I could do it too, and I definitely, definitely, definitely want to study bugs when I grow up, probably grasshoppers… If somebody said bugs weren’t for girls, I would be really mad at them… I think anything can be for anybody, including bugs.To which I can only say: amen.
The happiest conclusion of all this is that Sophia's bullying problems at school have all but evaporated. When her peers saw the response she got -- not to mention the amazing honor of being a co-author of an academic paper at age eight, which has to be a record -- all of a sudden, Sophia said, she's become "cool." The kids who teased her for loving bugs now line up to take a look in her microscope and ask her to identify weird and interesting insect life they come across.
All of which supports a contention I have had for years; one of the best ways to find happiness is to discover a true passion, something that you love to do or to learn with no particular thought of utility. I know my two obsessions -- music and running -- have pulled me up many times after bad days at work, or just general glumness. Kudos to Sophia for persisting in the pursuit of hers -- and to Morgan Jackson, and the other scientists who responded, for making sure that a girl who loves bugs has an opportunity to fly.