Unique Scientist: Dr. Cynthia Fadem

Time to meet Dr. Cynthia Fadem (She/her)! Dr. Fadem is an Associate Professor of Geology at Earlham College in the USA where she studies geoarchaeology, environmental science, and geoscience education!

What kind of scientist are you?
I study the broad fields of geoarchaeology, environmental science, and geoscience education. I analyze soils, stable isotope chemistry, geomorphology, and geochemistry of archaeological site materials to reconstruct paleoenvironments and understand site taphonomy. I also study lithic and ceramic artifacts and their provenance. Utilizing climate science, GIS, and the observed behavior of natural soil and water systems, I aim to resolve questions about archaeological sites, human societies, and natural resource use. I’m also heavily involved in professional society disciplinary leadership and mentorship in geoarchaeology through the Geological Society of America and the Society for American Archaeology.

What made you want to become a scientist?
I was fascinated from an early age by the mysteries and complexities of humanity and Earth’s past. I wanted to be able to explore and write these histories, as well as support humanity today in living sustainably and building a peaceful future.

“I was fascinated from an early age by the mysteries and complexities of humanity and Earth’s past.”

Dr. Cynthia Fadem

What makes you a #UniqueScientist?
I definitely don’t feel like I appear to be ‘traditional,’ but I also don’t know exactly what that means! A lot of people tell me it’s unique to see a woman with a lot of tattoos and hear she’s a scientist or tenured professor, but as a bisexual Jewish woman living in the Midwest, I’ve never been part of the majority. 😉

What’s something cool you do outside of work?
I come from St Louis via Philadelphia and New York City. I love museums and music, and play violin in our town’s community orchestra.

If you had one wish and could change anything in science, what would it be?
Imposter syndrome and science- and mathphobias! I guess these are more about society than science in particular, but they hold a lot of scientists back too, because we never really lose them. If people didn’t constantly second-guess themselves or feel like things weren’t meant for their kind of person, think how much more we could all accomplish!

“[…] as a bisexual Jewish woman living in the Midwest, I’ve never been part of the majority.”

Dr. Cynthia Fadem

Who has inspired you the most in your journey to where you are now?
I was SO lucky to have diverse mentors and teachers throughout my life, and I was also lucky to have academic support from my family growing up. These things were all so important to me, because I got to read about amazing people changing the world and learn from a fairly representative group of people in my real life.

Let’s end on a high note! What’s something you’ve done this week that you’re proud of?
I took my cat to the vet, even though it’s stressful to get him there. (Seriously, he hates it so much!) I was also accepted to the Earth Education for Sustainable Societies workshop, turned in final copy for an accepted paper, and got through the first full week of classes of the semester. It was a big week!


#WomenInSTEM, #QueerInSTEM, #BiInSci, #STEMatSLAC

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