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Female Scientists Can Finally Say, 'Toys are Us'

Lego to release set of female scientists in response to online recommendation.

by American Chemical Society
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Miniscientists: Toys crack Lego glass ceiling.Ellen KooijmanThe Lego community is embracing an idea hatched by geochemist Ellen Kooijman: female scientist Legos. Frustrated by the lack of women Lego characters, Kooijman pitched the idea for minifigures of a female astronomer, paleontologist, and chemist on an online forum sponsored by the maker of the recreational building blocks. After receiving 10,000 votes of approval from Lego users, the proposed design was presented to a company review board. Then, on June 3, Lego announced that it would actually be manufacturing Kooijman’s proposed minifigure set, which will be called Research Institute. The set builds on the popularity of a female lab scientist minifigure that Lego released last September.

News of the upcoming release has generated an enthusiastic response. “I applaud the people at Lego for their efforts,” says E. Ann Nalley, a professor of chemistry at Cameron University, in Lawton, Okla., and past-president of the American Chemical Society. Nalley believes that toys such as those designed by Kooijman play an important role in encouraging girls into the sciences. Nalley once proposed a Barbie the Chemist doll to the ACS Board of Directors (C&EN, April 7, page 56).

If Research Institute were available today, Nalley says, she would purchase one for each of the 12 middle school girls who are attending Cameron’s applied mathematics and aerospace engineering camp this week. Unfortunately, Nalley and the rest of us science toy fanatics will have to wait until August for the minifigures’ release.