By the Marlbots 3526, a high school team of girls and other gender minorities based in Los Angeles, CA.
Contrary to the experience of many people in this world, Dr. Lee Mirsky did not grow up in a household dominated by specific gender roles. She is a sister to a younger brother, LGBTQ+ twins, and is married to a transgender man; her father worked from home, while her mother went to work at a hospital. When going to a McDonald’s drive through with her mother as a child, her family was asked if they would like a “boy toy” or “girl toy” with their happy meals. Instead of subscribing to such a binary and gender-specific tradition, her mother would play dumb, saying things like “I don't know what ‘girl toy’ or ‘boy toy’ is.” Dr. Mirsky was aware, of course, that other ways of living existed, but such occurrences were the norm in her family.
Dr. Mirsky fell in love with science in an 11th grade physics class, encouraged from the help of a remarkable teacher at her school. From there, she went on to major in Physics and Environmental Analysis & Policy in college, but discovered her love of Materials Science (a combination of physics, chemistry and engineering) while at college. She decided to earn her PhD in Materials Science, and began to tutor physics throughout her graduate years, realizing her love of teaching physics. In 2016, during her last year in her PhD program, Dr. Mirsky joined the Marlborough School faculty part time to teach Physics, and in 2017, after receiving her PhD, she joined the faculty full time.
At Marlborough, the high school robotics program was beginning to expand in such a way that the illustrious Mr. Witman required extra help, leading him to turn to Dr. Mirsky. At first, Dr. Mirsky was hesitant to join the program, but after going to a Robotics meet, she realized how much fun the Robotics world is. By 2018, Dr. Mirsky was Mr. Witman’s second hand; she was assisting after school, and also helped to teach the middle school Robotics classes, on top of teaching Physics.
Although STEM is known as a fairly male-dominated field, Dr. Mirsky feels “very lucky” in that she’s been fortunate enough to have had positive experiences throughout her STEM career. Of course, like so many, she has dealt with inflated male egos: she once overheard a male peer discussing his “discovery”, which he had “discovered” in a research article that he simply modified. Nonetheless, Dr. Mirsky has never faced the typical disrespect so many women have faced in the STEM world at the hands of overzealous men.
Dr. Mirsky attributes her positive experiences to great teachers, some luck, other areas of privilege that she has, but also her upbringing. Dr. Mirsky was never taught to actively see gender, and even in the face of obnoxious males during her school years, she never felt held back by her male peers. So, when asked about the difference between the number of male coaches and female coaches at Robotics meets, Dr. Mirsky said she never really noticed it until she began to think about it.
It’s an interesting phenomenon - seeing gender is so ingrained in our society, but when a person is not taught to actively see gender roles, and constantly spend time and energy thinking about gender, their experience differs from the rest. Dr. Mirsky was never taught to see herself as overwhelmingly “female” in a STEM world dominated by “males,” and thus never felt the same effect of discrimination others are prone to.
Dr. Mirsky is currently the “Engineering and Entrepreneurship Program Head” and “Associate Director of the Frank and Eileen Accelerator Program” and teaches AP Physics and Engineering and Invention for Impact at Marlborough School. With the increase of Dr. Mirsky’s responsibilities, she is no longer able to assist with Robotics, but greatly treasures her time with the teams.
Be a guest
Do you want to be a guest blogger for FIRST Ladies? You can write about a topic of your choice! Please email us the completed blog and track your creation using this link: