U Professor Develops Scientist Barbie to Inspire Young Girls


(Photo Courtesy of Nalini Nadkarni)

By Stefanie Arevalo


(Photo Courtesy of Nalini Nadkarni)
(Photo Courtesy of Nalini Nadkarni)

Swinging from the tree tops comes Barbie, clad in all her climbing gear and ready to do research.


Nalini Nadkarni, a canopy ecologist at the U, said the development of a new science-oriented doll was made to inspire young girls.

“Young girls love the glamour of Barbie, but it would help them see that their role model can be strong, adventurous and interested in studying forest canopy ecology,” Nadkarni said.

Treetop Barbie is an accurate visual of what these researchers would look like. Her outfit includes athletic attire, a helmet, safety rope for climbing and a scientific notebook to record new discoveries. The initial design was created by a group of seamstresses in Washington based on Nadkarni’s specifications.

Nadkarni said she first brought Treetop Barbie to scientific meetings and talked about how the doll is an example of nontraditional outreach. Eventually, Nadkarni’s story was picked up and published in The New York Times.

“People … really liked this idea of linking a female scientist with the traditional Barbie doll,” Nadkarni said. “We’ve had many people ordering TTB for their daughter or niece or granddaughter, and all have said it is a big hit.”

Christey Schneider, a sophomore in parks and recreation, said she wished Treetop Barbie had been around when she was younger.

“I never fit into the idea of being a little princess in cute dresses, which is what all my dolls had,” Schneider said. “I wish Treetop Barbie would have been around for me to climb trees with or go on adventures outside with.”

Schneider said she hopes they continue to expand Barbie’s interests.

“If Barbie can be an astronaut, why not be a parks and rec major?” Schneider said.

Nadkarni said they will distribute TreeTop Barbie in a limited way. She said she would like Mattel Inc. to sell the doll on larger scale, but for now she hopes her message has made an impact.

“Maybe other scientists can [continue] making Barbies that imitate their choice of science,” Nadkarni said. “Marine Biologist Barbie, Geologist Barbie, etc.”

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