A scientist named “Fatma” does not get recognition every day

Dr. Fatma Kaplan
5 min readJan 16, 2022

A bitter-sweet recognition!

After 27 years of hard work in science, my efforts were for the first time recognized in 2021, simultaneously by both industry and academic communities. I was ecstatic! I was awarded ISCE Applied Chemical Ecology Award by the International Society of Chemical Ecology (ISCE) in March and the Female Leadership Award by Thrive AgFood Accelerator in June. This was followed by a Cover Feature of AWIS Magazine in July. It was a great honor for me I couldn’t help but share my excitement with everyone.

I was immediately put in my place in November. I was told that I have been advertising myself too much. I was told that I should not be mentioning recognition. This left me with a bitter-sweet taste. I was conflicted about taking the advice on whether or not to share news of the awards. A lot of minorities and women reached out to me from many different countries when I posted on social media. They said I was an inspiration to them. One of them said that he was working with model organisms at a University in Hong Kong and did not know what to do with this basic research after graduating. He realized that he can do a lot with basic research like me and move from bench to field. A group of female students reached out to me from Turkey and told me I was their role model and they can be successful like me. At UC Davis, I am invited to the “Inspiring Womxn and Femmes in STEM Symposium”. Sharing my excitement about recognition of my efforts was not just for me. Sharing meant to many around the world that if I make it, they can make it too.

Believe it or not, it is very rare that a person named ‘Fatma” gets recognition. She is usually passed over and treated like she does not exist. Sometimes even worse, she gets to be criticized or told that someone else is being identified to take the credit/recognition for her efforts. That is the powers-to-be-decision and she can’t do anything about it. Then she wonders “What is that she is doing wrong? What is it that others doing right? What is that right thing?”. When all of her friends around her are promoted or recognized, she is not, even though she worked just as hard as her friends.

There are only a few role models for people like me. When I was in middle school, the closest role model was…