The Virginia Tech Department of Geosciences is sponsoring a screening of the short documentary film "The Bearded Lady Project: Challenging the Face of Science," followed by a panel discussion. Filmmakers say the movie challenges preconceptions about what a scientist looks like, focusing on the field of paleontology, seen as dominated by men.

The 30-minute film screens at 4 p.m. Sept. 20 at the Lyric Theatre in Downtown Blacksburg and will be followed by a discussion panel that includes the project and film’s originator, Ellen Currano, an associate professor at the University of Wyoming. Joining Currano will be Meryl Mims, an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, and Tina Dura, a postdoctorate researcher at Humboldt University in California, who will join the geosciences department in 2019.

The event is free and open to the public.

“We are privileged to welcome Dr. Currano herself — the originator of the Bearded Lady project — to Blacksburg to host both a showing of the film and a panel discussion,” said Steve Holbrook, head of the Department of Geosciences, part of the Virginia Tech College of Science. “Currano and her colleagues have created an inspiring short film whose main message is that anyone can become a successful scientist, regardless of gender or body type. People of all ages are invited to attend, regardless of facial hair status.

According to the film’s promotional website, “paleontologists are typically depicted as rugged, burly men, invariably with beards.” With this in mind, paleontologist Ellen Currano, filmmaker Lexi Jamieson Marsh, and photographer Kelsey Vance set out to turn the stereotype on its head by interviewing real-life female paleontologists who don false beards while on camera. Supported by a National Science Foundation grant, the movie seeks to change “the face of science and encourage a new generation of women to focus on a career in this field of study.”

In the process of filming, Marsh, Vance, and director of photography Draper White traveled across the United States and the United Kingdom, interviewing female paleontologists and, of course, taking bearded portraits of scientists in their field, laboratory, museum, and classroom settings.

The film premiered last year and is available only for special screenings, such as the Lyric event. “I was fortunate enough to attend the premier of this film to a packed house in Laramie, Wyoming, last year, and I can attest that the film is wonderful,” Holbrook said.

Share this story