Saturday, August 9, 2014

Lost in Projection

Life is full of cycles. For the American Chemical Society (ACS), there’s a National Meeting held every 6 months. With that as my time constant, it feels as if it was just the other day that I gave the Keynote Lecture at the ACS Committee on Minority Affairs Luncheon at the last National Meeting in Dallas. Last March, I framed my remarks through the title of this post. I knew that it was a good title because my wife liked it. But she also wondered what in the world I would talk about under such a title. This seemed fortuitous. It meant that I could say nearly anything without disappointing the audience. After all, they couldn't possibly have any expectations. In truth, the title wasn’t advertised as evidence by the large turnout.

What is lost in the projection of how others frame you? That is, there is a potential disconnect between what others expect of you and the person who you believe yourself. To what extent are you bound by what others expect of you? Such expectations may arise from how others have seen you in the past or perhaps by who they see on first impression. I came to the United States as a child, a Cuban immigrant who spoke no English but proud to be able to count from one to ten without too much of an accent. Children grow and learn so surely I cannot be bound by that early frame. As adults, we may not grow physically, but we also learn. And yet, we have a tendency to hold others to the frames that we first see of them. Even more dangerous to each of us is the fact that the frame is often projected onto us by others, and not always correctly. There were several young scientists in the room. During the question and answer period, they echoed the angst of having felt bound by such projections in the past. I hope that I succeeded in encouraging them to find their way in breaking those projections and choosing their own frame.

The cycle continues this weekend with the start of the ACS meeting in San Francisco. If you are here, I encourage you to go to Monday’s CMA Luncheon where Madeleine Jacobs will be speaking. The issue of implicit bias and the effects that has on academic careers will also be a large piece of the Symposium on Advancing the Chemical Sciences Through Diversity to be held at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square Hotel all-day on Tuesday. I hope to see you there!

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