Name: Madison Acker
Occupation: Science Interpreter
Employer: Manuels River Interpretation Centre
Education: Bachelor of Science, Neuroscience, Dalhousie University and Master of Science, Biology, Laurentian University
Check out Madison's #STEMforGIRLS Balloon Barometer video. In this video, you will discover how a barometer works by building one yourself. A barometer is a scientific instrument that meteorologists use to measure air pressure. Madison Acker, Science Interpreter, will teach you how to make a balloon barometer and measure air pressure changes.
Download the Balloon Barometer activity outline.
What does your typical workday involve?
I spend most of my time 1) planning programs and activities that will help people learn about science and 2) doing those activities. The time that I spend preparing and planning is mostly indoors as I have to do research and get materials ready. But when it comes time to actually deliver the activity or the program, I’m often outside. I spend a lot of time working with children and students. I rely a lot on my team to help come up with new ideas and to figure out the best way to make something happen.
What do you most love about your profession? Why did you choose this career?
I love teaching and learning. I get to learn new things every day at work and then I get to share those things with people who are excited about science. It’s a lot of fun, but I think it’s also really important. Good science communication can help combat all the disinformation that exists on the internet. Helping people become more science literate makes it easier for them to understand issues that impact their lives, like climate change.
When did you realize you wanted to work in STEM?
When I was in grade 9, I was really interested in chemistry. I was fascinated by all the chemicals in nature, especially inside our own bodies. It was like a hidden world that I’d been living in all along without knowing it. My parents and my teachers encouraged me to be curious about those things, which led me to study science at university.
What were your favorite subjects in school?
I loved math, biology and history. Even though I was initially really interested in chemistry, I found that chemistry didn’t really mean that much to me unless the chemicals were inside living things. I ended up spending a lot of my time in the biology lab instead.
What advice would you give girls, who are still in school, who might be considering a career like yours?
Keep your interests broad.
I’m always encountering new people from different backgrounds. My goal is to connect with them and to provide them with something meaningful from their experience. I’m more likely to be successful if we have some interests in common. I try to stay curious and take some time at work each week to read about things that I want to know more about.
Why do we need more women in skilled trades and STEM?
For a long time, men were the professional scientists responsible for asking the questions and designing the experiments. But the types of questions they asked were shaped by their experiences as men which means that some pretty important things got overlooked! In medicine, for example, men did not take the time to research diseases that primarily affect women and today we still know very little about their treatment.
Who was your role model? What about this person inspires you?
I once had a professor named Pat Lane who really inspired me. First, she taught a course that was all about how humans interact with the natural world and it completely changed the way I thought about science. Second, she’s worked around the world on sustainability projects to improve people’s lives. But on top of all that, she’s a mom. She was the first person in my life who had both an amazing science career and children. I went to meet with her before graduation to ask her for some advice on having a career and a kid. Without her, I don’t think I would have even gone to graduate school.
What do you do for fun? What are some of your hobbies/activities?
I like to be outside and I love to cook. I’m really interested in wild food so I sometimes put those two interests together and go out foraging for ingredients to cook or ferment at home. I also read a lot and I love playing board games.
What superhero do you relate to most? Why?
I think I relate to Daredevil. Both as Matt Murdock the lawyer and Daredevil the super hero, he’s always trying to help the underdogs and change the systems that keep people down. I also want to dismantle the oppressive and unjust parts of our society.
Anything else you wish to share?
It’s normal for your career path to be a long and winding road with lots of detours. Don’t let it stress you out. Embrace the experiences and whatever they might teach you.
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