Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Prof. Tim Hunt's hypothesis regarding women in the laboratory: a mathematical model



Tim Hunt. Nobel prize laureate for physiology for cell division. And after sending a message of 39 words about women in the lab, his university appointment was removed within a span of 24 hours. And what were those words?
Let me tell you about my trouble with girls. Three things happen when they are in the lab. You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them, they cry. 
And his message elicited a storm in Twitter. He was called many names, such as "clueless, sexist jerk" and  "misogynist dude scientist".

Tim Hunt is an old professor and he surely has mentored men and women in his laboratory. If he has 10 students in his lab per year, in 50 years he would have mentored 500 students--that's a significant sample size for a data collection.  So what we should do is to think of his statements as hypothesis based on a sample of 500 students in his laboratory. Since he is a scientist, I'm sure he can make frequency distribution functions by counting the following incidences in his life:
  • $F_{00}$ = Number of cases he did not fell in love with his female researcher and his female researcher did not also fell in love with him
  • $F_{01}$ = Number of cases he did not fell in love with his female researcher but his female researcher fell in love with him
  • $F_{10}$ = Number of cases he fell in love with his female researcher but his female researcher did not fell in love with him
  • $F_{11}$ = Number of cases he fell in love with his female researcher and his female researcher also fell in love with him
  • $M_{00}$ = Number of cases he did not fell in love with his male researcher and his male researcher did not also fell in love with him
  • $M_{01}$ = Number of cases he did not fell in love with his male researcher but his male researcher fell in love with him
  • $M_{10}$ = Number of cases he fell in love with his male researcher but his male researcher did not fell in love with him
  • $M_{11}$ = Number of cases he fell in love with his male researcher and her male researcher also fell in love with him
Let $F$ be the total number of women he mentored in his laboratory and let $M$ be that for men. From this we can see that. If the cases are non-overlapping (disjoint), then we have \begin{align} F &= F_{00} + F_{01} + F_{10} + F_{11},\\ M &= M_{00} + M_{01} + M_{10} + M_{11}. \end{align}

Hypothesis 1. A male professor falls in love with his female students more than he falls in love with his male students

We may rewrite this statement as follows: \begin{equation} \frac{F_{10} + F_{11}}{F} > \frac{M_{10} + M_{11}}{M}. \end{equation}

Hypothesis 2. More female students than male students fall in love with their male professor We may rewrite this statement as follows: 

\begin{equation} \frac{F_{01} + F_{11}}{F} > \frac{M_{01} + M_{11}}{M}. \end{equation}

Hypothesis 3. Female students cry more than male students when criticized.

Let us define the following:
  • $F_{0}$ = Number of females who do not cry when criticized
  • $F_{1}$ = Number of females who cry when criticized
  • $M_{0}$ = Number of males who do not cry when criticized
  • $M_{1}$ = Number of males cry when criticized
We may rewrite Hypothesis 3 as follows:
\begin{equation} \frac{F_1}{F} > \frac{M_1}{M} \end{equation}

Conclusions and Recommendations

Calling a professor sexist and misogynist for stating his observations about the interactions of males and females in a laboratory is not a science-based behavior. The proper way to approach this issue is to think Professor's Tim Hunt's comments as hypothesis in behavioral psychology which must be studied into. What I propose here is only a mathematical framework that others can use to undertake such a study.

Or is it perhaps that the Twitter fire storm that erupted from Prof. Hunt's comments a validation of his Hypothesis 3? 
Fred Sanger - Double Nobel Laureate: A Biography
Fred Sanger - Double Nobel Laureate: A Biography
Brains on Fire: Igniting Powerful, Sustainable, Word of Mouth Movements
Brains on Fire: Igniting Powerful, Sustainable, Word of Mouth Movements
Why Mars and Venus Collide: Improving Relationships by Understanding How Men and Women Cope Differently with Stress
Why Mars and Venus Collide: Improving Relationships by Understanding How Men and Women Cope Differently with Stress
Introductory Statistics for the Behavioral Sciences
Introductory Statistics for the Behavioral Sciences
The Female Brain