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Dr. Linda Abraham-Silver

From Abu Dhabi to Dallas, Linda Abraham-Silver, Ph.D., spent the summer acclimating to a drastic change in scenery.
 
The mom of two was leading science and technology initiatives for the government of Abu Dhabi when the Perot Museum of Nature and Science came calling.
 
She took the helm as chief executive officer in July and got to work post-haste.  
 
“I’m here to help this very young, successful organization think about that it wants to be when it grows up and help shape that future,” says Abraham-Silver, 47. “We’ve got a lot of great opportunities on our horizon.”
 
The job is a perfect fit for Abraham-Silver, whose impressive resume includes executive roles at museums from California to Ohio, an MBA from Pepperdine University and a doctorate of education from the University of Sothern California.
 
As she’s hitting her stride at the Perot, her kids — 17-year-old Caroline and 15-year-old Brad — are settling in at Alcuin School and Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas, respectively.
 
It’s not Abu Dhabi, but it will do.
 
“It’s been fabulous so far,” says Abraham-Silver of her new Dallas digs (Preston Hollow to be exact). “Everybody thinks I’m crazy for moving to Dallas in July, but it’s cooler here than in Abu Dhabi!”
 
What’s it like being a mom of teenagers?
I actually really enjoy it. I find it less stressful than when they were little. Neither of my kids have their driver’s licenses yet, so maybe that has something to do with it. At these ages, you start to get a glimpse of the adults they’re going to be.
 
Did they inherit your love of science?
I’m happy to say my daughter plans to study chemical biology in university; she’s interested in a medical career. I was worried about my son for a while because as a kid he was focused on becoming a shark wrestler, but for the last eight years or so he’s wanted to be a paleontologist. So both of them are on the science track, which is exciting to see.
 
Do they love hanging out at museums as much as you?
They do. Every city we visit, we’re in museums. I’m a huge believer in museums and the impact they have on people and their choice of long-term careers. I certainly see it with my kids.
 
You’re a champion of inclusion in STEM. What do you wish more parents understood about this issue?
Research tells us the highest indicator for somebody choosing a career in science and technology is not their grades or how they test or what their parents do but their interest rates in science between the ages of 6 and 11 years old. That’s the single greatest predictor of somebody going into one of those careers. So it’s important to be fostering that curiosity and encouraging that interest early on.
 
What set you on this career path?
As a university student, I volunteered in museums. It’s what I did on the side. And one of those volunteer jobs led to my first paid museum job. I started working for the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and stayed there for 13 years.
 
Tell me about your work for the Perot.
It’s about putting the Perot on the map for what we’re doing with informal science education, how we’re engaging our audience in different ways and how we’re building relationships with this community. I see us playing a major role in the long-term success of Dallas.
 
What attracted you to the Perot?
It was an opportunity that doesn’t come very often — the perfect nexus of my background. It’s part natural history museum, part interactive science museum, and part children’s museum, all in one setting. And it’s right in the middle of a city that’s thriving.
 
Do you have a favorite exhibit or piece in the Perot?
That’s like asking if I have a favorite child! From an aesthetic standpoint I absolutely love the Gems and Minerals Hall. It’s stunning, but I’d like to do more in terms of facilitating learning in that space.
 
If your career had gone a completely different direction, what do you think you would be doing?
Academia. I love the intellectual side of what I do, and with a doctorate degree, that’s kind of an easy career trajectory to flip into.
 
Have you struggled with work-life balance over the course of your career?
Absolutely. I don’t think there’s anybody who hasn’t. It’s easier to admit that now that I’m in my 40s. In my 20s and 30s I would have answered by saying, “Oh, no. I’ve got it all handled.” When you think about that, if you’re having children, you’re likely to be having those children at the same time you need to be the most ambitious in your career — those late 20s and early 30s. At least that was the case for me. It’s a challenge, but it’s not a unique problem. All of us face it.
 
Have you experienced working mom guilt?
Some because I tend to travel a lot. When my kids were really young their dad was a full-time stay-at-home father. When my daughter was 3 and I was seven months pregnant with my son, my husband was diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer. So [that] was really hard to balance. But it also gives you perspective.
 
What’s something moms should never feel guilt about?
Taking enough time for themselves
 
What’s your favorite way to take time for yourself?
Travel and physical exercise
 
Favorite vacation destination?
Everywhere. We travel a lot. From the time my daughter was 11, I could put her on a plane in Dubai and she could get to San Francisco by herself.
 
If you could go back and offer yourself advice as a young mom, what would it be?
Slow down. Life is not a race. And in the end it will be just fine.
 
Do you have a motto you live by?
I love the idea of staying curious. Luckily, I get to indulge that every day at the office. Anytime I need a creative perk, I can go downstairs.
 
Favorite way to exercise your mind?
I know it’s silly, but going downstairs to the museum floor. It’s inspiring and intellectual at the same time.
 
What are your early impressions of Dallas?
Very positive. It’s an exciting place to be living. There’s diversity. It’s thriving and there’s a very obvious can-do spirit.
 
Favorite thing about being back in the states?
For six years living in the Middle East, I’ve been deprived of Mexican food. So Mexican food, and to be really blunt, pork.
 
As you get settled, what are you looking forward to experiencing?
Obviously, the museums. I’ve already got my subscription to the ballet and the opera.  
 
Favorite museums in the world?
The Getty in Malibu, the Natural History Museum in London and the British Museum.
 
What sparked your love of science?
It was a love of museums first and then a love of science. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and Golden Gate Park always had the most beautiful museums. Those experiences impacted me.
 
What legacy do you hope to leave through the Perot?
It’s really about making this museum an absolute cornerstone of the community in Dallas — and a cornerstone for science museums nationally and globally. I want to be recognized for doing it well and doing it right. I want the Perot to be a place that other museums emulate.
 
And personally?
It’s about helping other people be bolder and more curious. It’s curiosity that drives us to come up with solutions to problems in the world.