Unique Scientist: Adam Netzer Zimmer

Say hello to Adam Netzer Zimmer (He/They)! Adam is originally from the USA and is pursuing his Ph.D. at the at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, but currently lives in Reyjavík, Iceland.

What kind of scientist are you?
I’m a bioarchaeologist and forensic anthropologist studying the human skeletons left over after medical and anatomical research. I also study the policies that enabled these people to be collected for research purposes in the first place

What made you want to become a scientist?:
I actually went to school initially for opera performance and music education. I was always interested in science in general but I was convinced it would just be a side interest. During my sophomore year of undergrad, I took an anthropology course to get me out of the music school and I completely fell in love. I still thought I would go into music as a career until two of my undergraduate anthropology professors convinced me I had what it took to get into graduate school.

“I actually went to school initially for opera performance and music education. I was always interested in science in general but I was convinced it would just be a side interest. During my sophomore year of undergrad, I took an anthropology course to get me out of the music school and I completely fell in love.”

Adam Netzer Zimmer

What makes you a #UniqueScientist?
As a queer scientist, I bring a different perspective to a field that has been dominated by straight, cis-gender men for decades. There are lots of implicit assumptions about how people in the past lived and this is especially true when looking at the skeletal remains of past peoples. Because my own life experiences, family structure, and sex/gender alignment don’t correspond with those “traditional” frameworks of understanding the past, I’m always asking what other interpretations might be possible.

What’s something cool you do outside of work?

I’m currently living in Iceland so a lot of my time is spent learning the Icelandic language and exploring all of the amazing landscapes. I’m also quickly becoming an expert on finding terrible ways to carry groceries on icy sidewalks, as you can see. I still love to sing, although lately it’s been mostly confined to the shower or my car. 

“Because my own life experiences, family structure, and sex/gender alignment don’t correspond with those “traditional” frameworks of understanding the past, I’m always asking what other interpretations might be possible.”

Adam Netzer Zimmer

If you had one wish and could change anything in science, what would it be?
I would change the way academia supports underrepresented folks. I’ve seen a lot of women, especially women of color, and queer colleagues pushed out of academia because their concerns about mentoring, harassment, and disproportionate expectations went unheard or unactioned.

Who has inspired you the most in your journey to where you are now?
All of the women scientists and science educators who’ve taught me over the years. When I think back on my most memorable experiences in school growing up, they’re mostly centered on my amazing public school teachers who tried so hard to get their students engaged in science. I still remember making Alka-Seltzer rockets in Mrs. Zimmers’ second grade science class and how my sixth grade science teacher, Mrs. Knapp, recognized my interest in mummies and told me she was sure I’d write a book about them someday.

Let’s end on a high note! What’s something you’ve done this week that you’re proud of?
My first non-academic article was published in Scientific American! It’s titled “Era of the Body Snatchers” (Click here to read it).

#QueerInSTEM

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