Female students at an inner London high school discover that not all scientists wear lab coats and goggles.

Draw a Scientist is a test developed in 1983 to explore children’s perspectives of scientists and how stereotypical views can emerge at an early age, influenced both by popular culture and how STEM subjects are taught in schools.

In April, 50 images from Nature’s weekly Where I Work section, a photo essay which depicts an individual researcher at work, went on display in London’s Kings Cross district.

The photographs were chosen to reflect the diversity of scientific careers, and in the words of senior careers editor Jack Leeming, to demonstrate that “scientists aren’t all wacky lab-coated, round-goggled people from the science fiction film Back to the Future.”

In this Working Scientist podcast, Julie Gould visits the exhibition with a group of 12–13-year-old female pupils from London’s Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School, where she repeats the Draw a Scientist test, based on their perceptions of scientists. The children draw two pictures, one before and one after viewing the 50 photographs. Gould then asks them how their perceptions have changed, based on what they have seen.

As one pupil put it after seeing the exhibition, which closes later this month: “You can be a scientist in almost any part of the world. You could be involved with flowers, with the ocean, with weather, with space. You can do anything.”