Twelve scientists share stories on what motivated them to get involved in their profession and provide inspiration and insight into their fascination
Sebastopol, CA—MAKE magazine announces a new series of educational and inspirational video interviews that are available at ElementsOfHumanity.com. These interviews of working scientists and technologists were recorded at SciFoo, an unstructured conference on Science and Technology organized this past summer by O'Reilly Media along with Nature Magazine and Google.
In an ongoing effort to get more students interested in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), Dale Dougherty, founding editor and publisher of MAKE, sought to uncover each person's own fascination with science and how that has shaped their life's work. "It is important to see that scientists are human and they have lots of passion for what they do. They connect their own personal interests to work they enjoy doing and which benefits others," says Dougherty.
The interviews are informal and offer a view of scientists that is not often seen in traditional media. "I wanted to know what fascinated them most about science when they were young and how they were fascinated with the work they are doing today," said Dougherty.
The Dow Chemical Company is the sponsor of this video series, which is part of their current corporate advertising campaign, The Human Element campaign. Video interviews can be found at ElementsOfHumanity.com
These interviews include:
Mackenzie Cowell—Fascination with Synthetic Biology
"In the future there is a really neat opportunity for open source science to be driven by amateurs."
Mackenzie Cowell is one of a group of amateurs exploring the techniques of synthetic biology, which applies the tools, and methodologies of engineering and computer science to the field of biology. He is the co-founder of DIYbio.org.
Theodore Gray—Fascination with Periodic Tables
"I was side-tracked by a really good chemistry teacher."
Co-founder of Wolfram Research, Inc, Gray studied chemistry in college before discovering that computer science was "what I was really good at." He has remained fascinated with chemistry, however, as an amateur. In his shadowy double-life, he writes the Gray Matter column for Popular Science magazine, and has recently published a book of collected columns under the title Mad Science.
Andrew Hicks—Fascination with Mirrors
"The world looks strange and twisted. What I do has been to try to understand those distortions."
Mathemagician at Philadelphia's Drexel University, Hicks has created a way to make unusual custom mirrors using mathematical formulas. This was something he was fascinated with when he was young but unable to figure out until he acquired what he needed to know in college.
Bruce Hood—Fascination with People
"They point to the sky, they eat chicken before their games and they will pay three million dollars for a home run ball."
Director of the Bristol Cognitive Development Centre at the University of Bristol, and author of the book Supersense, Hood researches the origins of supernatural beliefs, particularly in children, and how it sheds light on cognitive development.
Heather Lang—Fascination with Chess
"My passion would lie in helping people to achieve that sensation, ah, yes, got it!"
Heather Lang, author of Head First Physics, says that her PhD is in "the grey area between biochemistry and physics." She has a great interest in educational and coaching methods, and how they can be used to help anyone learn what they need to know. She has run after-school chess clubs for a number of years, bringing many complete beginners on to national and international levels.
Louise Leakey—Fascination with Fossils
"I finally found evidence that put Africa on the map as the place we all came from."
A member of the storied Leakey family, Louise Leakey has continued to explore Africa in search of fossils that tell the story of our human origins. A Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology, University of Stony Brook, New York, Leakey is also a National Geographic Explorer in Residence.
John Mighton—Fascination with How Kids Learn Math
Mighton is a mathematician at the Fields Institute in Toronto who wants to change how we teach math. He is the founder of JUMP Math (www.jumpmath.org), a program that is dedicated to improving the teaching of mathematics in public schools. He not only believes there is a better way to teach math but that anyone can learn math using these methods.
Rebecca Moore—Fascination with Mapping Tools
"He had a clear vision of how digital technology could help indigenous people, who were making the transition from the Stone Age to the Internet Age."
Rebecca Moore is a computer scientist at Google, where she started and now manages the Google Earth Outreach program. As part of this program, she has worked with indigenous tribe of the Amazon to help them map their land and protect it from de-forestation.
Fiorenzo Omenetto—Fascination with Silk
"They looked like very nice toys that I could not play with."
A Professor of Biomedical Engineering & Physics at Tufts, Omenetto was fascinated by the lab equipment his father used, such as femtosecond lasers. His most recent work has been the result of a collaboration to experiment with how silk can be used as a material platform for high-tech applications.
Lynn Rothschild—Fascination with Microbes
"When life arose we didn't have an ozone layer and so life had to deal with a much higher level of ultra-violet radiation than it does today."
Astrobiologist at NASA Ames Research Center, Rothschild specializes in using molecular techniques and field work to study the interactions of organisms, known as extremophiles that have adapted to survive the harshest environments on earth.
Adam Summers—Fascination with Sharks
"Somewhere on The Great Barrier Reef I met my first biologist--I was collecting fish for him."
A Comparative Biomechanist and evolutionary psychologist, Summers is exploring how sharks swim fast with a different skeletal material from bony fishes. Summers is someone who grew up taking things apart and even now, he thinks in similar terms as he studies how an animal moves.
Larry Weiss—Fascination with Hygiene
"You don't change the world by criticizing what other people are doing. You change the world by giving people another alternative."
A physician-scientist, Weiss is the Founding Chief Scientist of CleanWell Company. He realizes the importance of something as simple as washing your hands frequently, as a way of reducing the spread of disease. His San Francisco biotechnology company has developed biomimetic antimicrobial consumer products based on the essential oils from Thyme & Oregano.
In addition to the videos, the elements of humanity website invites visitors to engage in a discussion of what fascinated them most about science and technology and what fascinates them today.
O’Reilly Media spreads the knowledge of innovators through its books, online services, magazines, and conferences. Since 1978, O’Reilly Media has been a chronicler and catalyst of cutting-edge development, homing in on the technology trends that really matter and spurring their adoption by amplifying “faint signals” from the alpha geeks who are creating the future. An active participant in the technology community, the company has a long history of advocacy, meme-making, and evangelism.