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Tim Hunt's 'Problem With Girls' Actually Did Us a Favour

12/07/2015 20:30 BST | Updated 12/07/2016 10:59 BST

On Thursday, University College London (UCL) confirmed that they would not be reinstating Sir Tim Hunt, the beleaguered Nobel Laureate who reportedly has a 'problem with girls.'

Nobody really expected the institution to change its mind but I did wonder if it would regret its unusually quick reflex reaction to Hunt's remarks.

My own interest in this painfully drawn out saga is simple. I happen to be a girl who studied biology.

As I read Sir Tim Hunt's interview with the Guardian detailing the emotional upheaval that has resulted from this lengthy drama, I couldn't help but feel a little sorry for the Nobel Laureate.

He sounded defeated, desolate and (presumably) a shadow of the confident scientist who helped discover key molecules in the cell cycle 14 years ago -- a biological process that is integral to each and every one of us.

Sir Hunt's mind is the stuff textbook cell biology is made of. It's his discoveries my classmates and I poured over in preparation for our biology degree finals. We all passed.

At the time, we didn't really fuss over the fact that we were potential female scientists in the making.

For all intensive purposes, we were simply studying science and the fact that we had an extra X chromosome never really factored into our conversations - unless were in a genetics lecture.

But even then, the all-important X chromosome was never associated with the type of positive discourse we have today about the lack of women in STEM.

For the record, none of us girls ever blubbered our way to the front of the line for test tubes or gazed lovingly at our male lab partners while waiting for the centrifuge to finish spinning.

If anything, the neutrality of the lab almost insulated us from a more toxic reality - women in science simply did not celebrate being women in science.

Now I'm not saying that female scientists should be treated differently simply because of their gender. No, like most people on the planet, I would rather scientists be celebrated because of their ground breaking discoveries.

But when you compare the STEM arena to politics and the arts, the culture is a little different -- even at the undergraduate level.

While all our theatre, music and politics contemporaries posted pictures on Facebook about upcoming plays, shows and debates, those of us studying science seldom made a big deal about bubbling concoctions in the lab. Obviously, this is an observation backed up by hard evidence in the form of our Facebook albums having a dearth of lab and field trip pictures.

To us, the white coats, conical flasks and electron microscopes were mundane objects, nothing worth gushing over.

However, following Hunt's reported problem with girls, a large proportion of women in STEM took to Twitter to wax lyrical (in 140 characters) about their careers - there was a lot of gushing, of the best possible kind.

Suddenly my timeline was flooded with images of women next to microscopes, holding hammers, test tubes, wearing plastic goggles, standing knee-deep in mud and genuinely embracing whatever aspect of STEM they were working in.

The driving force behind it all? #Distractinglysexy

The fact that it took a man, whose comments may or may not have been taken out of context, for this to happen is a little disappointing.

But we can only hope that it becomes a trend that lives beyond the hashtag and outlasts Sir Tim Hunt's tattered reputation.