Bridget Stocker

Story by Isabel Herstell

Faculty of Science, 2017

A Literary Chemist

As a young woman pursuing tertiary education, Bridget Stocker was faced with a big decision: what to study?

Having excelled in both sciences and the humanities throughout high school, Bridget opted for an undergraduate programme that focused on Chemistry, Commercial Law, and Management.

In 2006 Bridget began work at the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research co-establishing the immunoglycomics research team, which studied the effects of carbohydrates on immune responses.

While working at the Malaghan Institute Bridget was awarded the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry’s Easterfield Medal for “significant research by an emerging chemist” in 2011.

After completing her PhD in Chemistry, and working as a postdoctorate researcher, Bridget gained a position as a senior lecturer here at Victoria.

A Marriage of Science and Creativity

With a diverse conjoint degree and experience working in different environments as both teacher and student, Bridget broadened her horizons even further when she decided to branch out into creative writing.

One of her earliest pieces was a spellbinding short story of a night in the life, and mind, of Nobel Prize-winning chemist, Marie Curie, who discovered the radioactive elements radium and polonium while working in Paris around the turn of the twentieth century.

Finding Marie Curie

In 2011 the Royal Society of New Zealand Manhire Prize for Creative Writing invited contributions on the theme of 'chemistry and our world'. The theme was chosen in recognition of the 100th anniversary of Marie Curie being awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

A friend suggested to Bridget that she read Susan Quinn’s 1996 biography Marie Curie: A life.

Bridget was not committed to entering the competition, though she decided to read the biography anyway. As a chemist and a woman, she was interested in learning about the trailblazing Curie’s life.

A pivotal moment came later, on a walk through her local Aro Park. It was then that Bridget decided to enter the competition. She notes, “when I write I need to first see the imagery - I suddenly had this vision of the radioactive material emanating a faint green glow from the flasks at night”.

This vision of Curie, sitting in a contemplative darkness, observing the radioactive material, helped to create the atmosphere of the narrative, and inspired the rest of the story.

Bridget went on to win the competition with her submission Radium, a love story.

Marie Curie

  • <p>Portrait of Marie Curie taken by Arthur Mee. </p>

Winner!

2011 proved to be a successful year for Bridget, winning both the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry Easterfield Medal and the Royal Society of New Zealand Manhire Prize for Creative Writing.

To be recognised in two fields that are often perceived as unconnected, chemistry and creative writing, illustrates the fact that the two fields are not mutually exclusive and can often be intricately linked.

Bridget argues, “both science and the arts require creative thinking - especially if you are to do something unique”.

Just as it requires imagination to create a piece of fiction, that same element of imagination is required to think outside of the box when working on original ideas in Chemistry.

Looking to the Future

Bridget's success as both a chemist and a writer shows the growing need for creative people working in science and vice versa.

With one novel completed and pending publication, and another in its final stages, Bridget's future as a literary chemist looks bright.

Find the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences

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