Most people who see 30-year-old Japanese researcher Haruko Obokata, with her apron and pink and cartoon decorated office at the Riken Center for Developmental Biology, would not immediately think of her as a game changing scientist who has made a possibly Nobel-proportion scientific discovery. But this young woman did just that, and is now being hailed as an icon for rijeko, or “science girls,” in Japan.
When scientific journal Nature published early in January Obokata and her international team’s discovery of the easiest way to create stem cells, little did she know the amount of media attention she will be getting. In a country where only 14.4% of listed research and development professionals are female, observers say women scientists are very much under-represented. Along comes this young woman with her unique sense of style, passion for her career, and a possible Nobel Prize in the future, and already people are starting to brand her as the poster girl for young women who want to go into science.
Local media started paying attention when television personality Tomoaki Ogura told viewers about Obakata, saying “A very cute apron-wearing girl has just announced amazing research that could repaint the history of the life sciences.” However, the intense scrutiny has even led to people wanting to know everything about her, even the parts that have nothing to do with her career. She appealed to the public to let her have her privacy. “Since the press conference about the research results, reports that have nothing to do with the research have run wild, such that it is a hindrance to my research activities,” she said. “Every day is very painful for me.”
[ via Wall Street Journal ]