A lab featured in the documentary, “Picture a Scientists,” directed by Sharon Shattuck and Ian Cheney.

A lab featured in the documentary, “Picture a Scientists,” directed by Sharon Shattuck and Ian Cheney. Emilie Rodriguez/Nevada Sagebrush

The University of Nevada, Reno invited staff and students to take part in a private virtual viewing of the documentary “Picture a Scientist” (2020) on Feb. 5. 

This 2020 Tribeca Film Festival selection takes an investigative look into the world of science, and the challenges women scientists face in the male-dominated area. 

The Boston Globe called the production “quietly devastating” in reference to some of the horror stories the women scientists described. 

Geologist Jane Willenbring, PH.D spoke on her horrific experience working on an Arctic research expedition, describing how she was constantly sexual harassed and verbally abused from a male researcher. This deterred Willenbring from field work, and unfortunately discouraged other women as well. 

One such women who preferred to remain anonymous described a similar instance with the same Artic research group, and it cost her a potential career with NASA as an astronaut. 

The film deserves more then just a mere review, and when you get the chance to view it the research will open your eyes to the bias, inequality and unethical behavior that goes on in the field of science. Women over the years have been kept from their full potential as scientists because they have to fight this equality problem, which is heartbreaking to say the least. 

The most impactful part of this film was the mass amounts of data provided to back up the inequality that goes on behind the curtain. 

Biologist Nancy Hopkins, PH.D, helped in making this data a reality, aiding many women in their fight to just be equal to their male counterparts. Hopkins knew she needed to do something about the issue after working as a professor for MIT and not being permitted the same conditions and materials as the male professors. She created a staff report by recording data on the inequality of MIT, and that was revolutionary in helping women gaining recognition at the university. This in turn caused other universities to follow suit which made the science field a lot more inclusive for women, and women of color. 

A couple statistics from the film included 50 percent of the women in science-related fields experiencing sexual harassment. In 2017, women only made up 29 percent of the STEM field. Lastly, between 1901 and 2019, only 19 women had been awarded a Nobel Prize, and drastically, only one of those women was a woman of color. 

The film is visually stunning and makes great use of colorful and captivating motion graphics. The documentary does an amazing job of displaying women from the various fields of science and their struggle with many forms of harassment, abuse and mistreatment in their work environments.  

A very powerful theme in the film was comparing the field of science and the scientists themselves. 

Luckily, this documentary showed that change is coming, slowly but surely. 

The film is not open for public viewing at the moment, but those interested in this documentary can still attend a post-viewing panel on Feb. 11 at 12 p.m. “Picture a Scientist” provides more information about this groundbreaking production and potential ways to view it in the next few months. 

Emilie Rodriguez can be reached at emilier@sagebrush.unr.edu or on Twitter @emilieemeree.