The Only Woman in the Room

Writer Eileen Pollack will visit OSU to discuss “Why Science is Still a Boys’ Club”

Feeling discouraged in a male-dominated field, writer Eileen Pollack contemplated leaving physics and dropping out of Yale University during her freshman year.

After graduating at the top of her class with a bachelor’s of science degree, Pollack had a change of heart that ultimately led to a decision in pursuing her interest to become a writer instead of going to graduate school for physics. Pollack attended the University of Iowa where she earned an MFA, and is now a creative writing professor at the University of Michigan.

At the end of four years, I was exhausted by all the lonely hours I spent catching up to my classmates, hiding my insecurities, struggling to do my problem sets while the boys worked in teams to finish theirs,” wrote Pollack in her article “Why Are There Still So Few Women in Science?” featured in the New York Times Magazine. “Mostly, though, I didn’t go on in physics because not a single professor — not even the adviser who supervised my senior thesis — encouraged me to go to graduate school.”

In her latest book “The Only Woman in the Room: Why Science is Still a Boys’ Club,” Pollack reflects on the obstacles she faced while studying physics, and discusses how gender stereotypes and sexism keep women and minority students from aspiring to careers in the STEM field.

The author writes with tremendous creative skill, and opens our eyes to the beauty of mathematics,” wrote Christine Arasaratnam, in a book review for The Scientista Foundation. “The combination of the fields of physics, mathematics and creative writing truly does provide a glimpse into a world of wonder, and reveals why many scientists, men and women, have fallen in love with the field and yearned to know more.”

On Friday, Oct. 21, Pollack will visit Oregon State University as a speaker for their Creative Writing Program’s 2016-17 “Visiting Writer Series,” and as one of the SPARK event’s for OSU’s yearlong celebration of what can be achieved when art and science collaborate. She’ll give a two part lecture on: “The Facts Behind the Fiction: Research and Creative” and “The Only Woman in the Room: Why Science Is Still a Boys’ Club” followed by a Q and A and book signing.

“Scientists—especially female scientists—rarely get portrayed in fiction. And yet, scientists lead fascinating lives,” wrote Pollack in the article “Why Fiction Needs More Women Scientists” for Literary Hub. “Their quests to bring to light new physical laws, or new answers to humanity’s major quandaries, can provide a natural narrative spine for a work of fiction.”


At a glance:

When: Friday, Oct. 21

The Facts Behind the Fiction: Research and Creative Writing

4:00 pm Memorial Union Journey Room

The Only Woman in the Room: Why Science Is Still a Boys’ Club

7:30 pm Valley Library Rotunda


Future OSU Visiting writers series events:

Ross Gay

Friday, March 10:  Poetry

7:30 pm in the Valley Library Rotunda

Ellen Bass

Friday, April 7: Poetry

7:30 pm in the Valley Library Rotunda

Karen Russell

Friday, May 19: Fiction

7:30 pm in the Valley Library Rotunda


Story by Alyssa Campbell

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