Pod of the Week Philly

This week we are excited to introduce the Philadelphia 500WS Pod. Led by Tanya Dabkey and Lexi Crisp, their pod is laying the ground work for a strong support group and organizing events to promote STEM education. They will March for Science and take the opportunity to expand their already large network. Read on to learn about the Philly Pod! 

(pictured Valley Forge National Historic Park; George Washington headquarters house)

Pod Bio

Location: Philadelphia, PA

Number of women: 70

Frequency of meeting: Every month, or every two months depending on everyone’s schedule.

Mission statement: We stand together to promote STEM education, to support each other in all aspects of our careers, and to advocate for a fact-based public dialogue.

Ben Franklin statue on PENN Philly campus

Ben Franklin statue on PENN Philly campus

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

First of all, Philadelphia is really old (for an American city, that is).  That seems obvious, but every day we pass Valley Forge or Ben Franklin’s house or Independence Hall and we’re reminded not of what our country is or was, but what it was supposed to be. Philadelphia’s favorite son, Ben Franklin, was an abolitionist before it was cool, a scientist, a politician, a writer, an inventor, and an advocate for women’s education. It’s not hard to imagine what Ben Franklin might think about our current societal disregard for facts and evidence. Taking this as inspiration, we see it as our mission to promote a fact-based public dialogue, particularly focusing on issues such as climate change, environmental regulation, education, and civil rights. We believe that scientific thinking can lead us to a better society through evidence-based public policy.  

We are grateful for the women in our lives who have paved the way for us, and we want to follow their example and give back to our community. We’re focused on outreach activities for young women and girls in our city, particularly those in communities that have been underrepresented in the scientific establishment.  

We’re also providing a community for women scientists to support each other. Being a woman in science isn’t easy, and we find great solidarity in each other. Our aim is to form a sisterhood of women scientists, not simply a group of colleagues with shared interests.

Also Valley Forge National Historic Park, National Memorial Arch commemorating the arrival of General Washington and the revolutionary army to Valley Forge

Also Valley Forge National Historic Park, National Memorial Arch commemorating the arrival of General Washington and the revolutionary army to Valley Forge

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

We have reached out to our networks, which include women scientists from diverse circumstances and backgrounds including academia, government, and industry.  In addition, we have gone outside our own networks and specialties to recruit women scientists from a variety of scientific disciplines at local universities. We’re still working on growing our pod and getting a diverse group of women that includes people of color and members of the LGBTQ community. We value a diversity of voices and we want to be sure that we address issues that are outside our own white cis-gendered experience. We hope to be able to recruit new members from the community through our outreach events.


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

Our pod is really focusing on education and outreach. One of our first activities after the March for Science will be to work for the Philadelphia Science Festival where we can interact with the general public.  As a free event, the Science Fest provides us the opportunity for us to interact with people from all walks of life and many levels of interest.  We’re working with Let’s Go Outdoors, a group that runs family friendly, outdoor events for city communities, particularly impoverished communities of color.  We’ll be presenting information about our local environment, including water ecology, mammals, and insects.


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

We will be attending the March for Science in Philadelphia! We want to support science and show up as a voice for inclusivity and diversity in science. We also want to recruit new members and a big group of activist scientists seems like a perfect place. We have a sign-making party scheduled for this Sunday, April 9th. We’ll be wearing our 500 Women Scientists shirts and purple flowers to represent.

Pod Leaders: 

Tanya Dapkey currently lives with her husband of 11 years, her 8 year old son and 6 year old daughter. She works in the field of entomology for Dr. Daniel Janzen at the University of Pennsylvania on The Barcode of Life Initiative.  Her project focuses on the lepidoptera of the ACG (Area de Conservacion en Guanacaste) in Costa Rica.Tanya is a very active member of her community, participating in local STEM events as a women scientist spreading the knowledge of entomology to children. Her goal is to help raise awareness of the beauty, importance and joy of insects. She is a nerd, mother, entomologist, and a partly cloudy Gonzo Patriot.

Lexi Crisp. Lexi and her husband moved to the Philadelphia area from Las Vegas almost 2 years ago. She is a PhD candidate in The School of Life Sciences at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and her dissertation is on the biomechanics of burrowing rodents (cool videos here: www.biologyunderground.com). While writing her dissertation from afar, Lexi teaches biology at Delaware County Community College as an adjunct professor.

Lexi’s scientific interests include biomechanics, functional morphology, digging animals, and vertebrate anatomy. Outside of biology, Lexi has a broad background- her undergraduate degrees are in philosophy, psychology, and history and philosophy of science. Over the past year, it’s become clear to her that she would like to use her scientific skills for the greater good. She has developed a deep interest in science policy and evidence-based public policy and plans to pursue that going forward.