“Nobel Laureate Resigns Post After Comments on Female Scientists.” This is just one article on a long list of titles shared among social media users hours after a respected man in the science community said this:
“Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab: You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them they cry.”
Needless to say, this award-winner is not getting a prize for these comments.
Tim Hunt, age 72, received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2001 with his colleagues Leland Hartwell and Sir Paul M. Nurse for innovative research into the regulators of cell cycles and worked as a honorary professor, up until now, at the University College London.
Tim Hunt also earned a backlash of social media response after making the above comments at the World Conference of Science Journalists in South Korea. My favorite Twitter response is from Professor Sophie Scott, also of University College London: “I am in the office, but I can’t do my science work as I saw a photograph of Tim Hunt and now I’m in love, dammit.” Same, Sophie. Same. (Fun fact: University College London is noted as the first university in England to grant admission to women on the same terms as men. The irony is unreal here.)
Other Twitter follows have followed suit too with the #DistractinglySexy campaign, that literally has us laughing out loud:
Now, I’m no Nobel Laureate like Mr. Hunt. I’m just a rising second year majoring in biomedical engineering with a few lab classes and a research position under my belt. But I’m almost, ALMOST, positive that girls are capable of bringing something else to the lab table besides tears and unyielding love. The closest I’ve ever come to some hard-core emotions regarding lab was when tears of joy streamed from my face as Chem lab was cancelled due to snow. But again, I’m no Nobel Laureate.
I hate to break it to Tim Hunt, but since his collaborative win of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2001, there have been four Nobel Prizes awarded in this same category to teams that consisted of men and women (2004, 2008, 2009, and 2014). These partnerships are to be applauded, not demeaned, by a fellow Laureate who understands the levels of intelligence, discipline, and dedication required of any Nobel recipient – male or female.
Whether Mr. Hunt truly meant this as a joke is not up to me to decide. (I’m also no stand-up comedian but I’m pretty sure he needs to work on his delivery if humor was intended.) He has since apologized for causing any offense. But he also threw in, “I did mean the part about having trouble with the girls…I have fallen in love with people in the lab. And people have fallen in love with me. And it’s very disruptive to the science.”
Who needs a PR team when you can deliver an apology as solid as that on your own?