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Episode #39

A Positive Grad School Experience Laid the Foundation: An Interview with Cara Gormally

Cara Gormally joins me on this interview episode of the Academic Womxn Amplified podcast to share her journey from someone who hated math and science, to an academic with a passion for science and science education. She talks about the importance of finding joy in our academic pursuits, her interests in how identity impacts learning and her drive for changing the way we do science education. 


Cara shares about teaching at the country’s only deaf and hard of hearing college, and how she came through the tenure process while learning the language she teaches in. We also discuss how a change in the basic science knowledge in our society could impact how we approach things like pandemics, and making science concepts more accessible and widely useful by viewing them through a social justice lens.


Key point discussed:

  • Cara’s childhood as a bookworm, middle class kid; learning flexibility from moving around a lot [5:30]
  • Discovering a love for science after being required to take philosophy of science courses at her small college [7:00]
  • Finding a perfect match, getting into a great lab, and a positive grad school experience [12:00]
  • Funding as a TA leading her to another area of research: biology education [14:15]
  • Passions for teaching others how to teach and a drive to do research [16:15]
  • Coming to teach at a deaf and hard of hearing college; learning ASL along the way [18:00]
  • Navigating the pre-tenure process in a second language [22:00]
  • The “now what?” period of reflection after receiving tenure [24:00]
  • Scaling back and focusing in when her son was born and beyond [25:00]
  • Collaborations and the importance of who you work with [28:30]
  • The exhaustion of applying for things, and whether it’s worth it [29:30]
  • Transitioning to “Covid learning” [33:00]
  • What she is doing in our current moment to make science and science education more impactful [37:30]
  • Creating a brand new curriculum: science through the lens of social justice [40:00]
  • Finding the parts of academia that work for an individual; choosing service work that is meaningful and useful, finding the sweet spots in an academic career [41:00]


Key Quotes:

  • “It should be about joy.” -Cara Gormally
  • “When you’re not tenure track, you get trampled.” -Cara Gormally
  • “I got really intentional about my research projects.” -Cara Gormally
  • “Applying to things is not always that fruitful.” -Cara Gormally
  • “All of a sudden, we had half the time to do our jobs.” -Cara Gormally
  • “We could be collectively trying to re-imagine and make something much better.” -Cara Gormally
  • “How can we also showcase diverse scientists?” -Cara Gormally
  • “I can’t teach what I’m teaching anymore…we have to do something different.” -Cara Gormally
  • “Academia should be joyful.” -Cathy Mazak


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