Pod of the Week: NOLA

We first met Claire Borges back in January, when she reached out to 500WS asking how she could be more involved. Since then she has become an active member of our organization, is leading the young scientist strike team and has helped set up a Pod in New Orleans. Now, the NOLA pod is up and running and taking action of their own. Find out what they are up to and if you are Marching in New Orleans this weekend, look for Claire giving a speech. Thanks NOLA for the interview!

(header photo: 800 year old oak tree at New Orleans City Park)

New Orleans CBD (photo Margaux Schexneider

New Orleans CBD (photo Margaux Schexneider

Location: New Orleans, Louisiana

Number of women: 20 that are actively involved in discussion, 98 in the facebook group

Frequency of meeting: 1-2 a month so far

Mission statement: The New Orleans Pod, or NOLA pod, is dedicated to outreach to future women scientists and local education surrounding environmental and scientific issues.


How did you come to this mission, why is it relevant to your city and state?

For one, New Orleans is so heavily impacted by climate change and environmental issues.  Just look back at Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill (among other disasters), and you can see how vital it is for Nola residents to support scientific interests, so education of the general public is important. It is also essential that we introduce young women to the world of science and guide them to become successful scientists.  Not only do we want them to become good scientists but also powerful leaders of their community to push for action surrounding scientific and environmental issues.

How has your pod ensured a diverse group of women scientists attend the pod meetings?

This, admittedly, has been a difficult task.  Thankfully, New Orleans has quite a sizeable scientific population.  Thus far, we have relied on reaching out through personal networks and putting up flyers around university-area coffee shops and hangouts.  This has brought us women scientists from many disciplines: anywhere from library science to forensic anthropology to meteorology. A current goal is outreach to New Orleans’ African American scientific-community.  We have 3 Historically Black Colleges and Universities in New Orleans, so we are hoping to draw quite a few women scientists!  


A Ben Franklin Fem Club member talking about why diversity in science should be a main focus of the March for Science. pc Margaux Schexneider

A Ben Franklin Fem Club member talking about why diversity in science should be a main focus of the March for Science. pc Margaux Schexneider

Can you talk about your first activity the pod is focusing on? What actions and outputs do you envision? Who is your audience?

We are currently focused on youth outreach. We just held a luncheon with a local high school’s (Benjamin Franklin High School) feminist club and Society for Women Engineers.  Everyone was so impressed by the conversation.  We definitely focused on intersectionality among the scientific community, as that is a large focus of the high school’s feminist club.  We also helped out local March for Science with promotion, so we are hoping to bring out a group of high school students to march with us!  This could possibly turn into a regular roundtable discussion event with high-school aged women, because we had a great time!


Will your pod be organizing for any of the marches this month? Why? Anything special planned?

We will be proudly second-lining this Saturday at the March for Science!  We want to make sure that diversity among the scientific community remains a keystone of our local march, so we will be handing out flyers of prominent female scientists to promote women in science.  One of our leaders, Claire, will also be a speaker at the event.


Kristin Chapman was born and raised outside of Washington DC. She Attended cedar crest college, majoring in history. Kristin attended graduate school at University College of Dublin, Ireland getting a masters degree in library and information studies. Kristin is an Afghanistan war veteran, deployment in 2011-2012. She is currently a medical librarian and only cataloguer for Ochsner medical system.

Claire Borges is a 16 year old student at Benjamin Franklin High School in New Orleans, Louisiana.  She is a co-leader of the Young Women Scientists Strike Team.  Claire recently presented her research at the International Stroke Conference in Houston as first author and hopes to continue her research over the summer. She is dedicated to the encouragement of political activity by girls, as well as inclusion of young girls in STEM.