Before They Were Scientists: Jelena Vuckovic

On our next stop for the “Before They Were Scientists” world tour, I sat down with Jelena Vuckovic, who spends part of her year in Germany and the other part at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Read on to learn about her experiences as a middle school student in the former Yugoslavia where she played with Legos, almost became a French teacher, and was never told it was unique for a girl to love physics.

Lea: Can you tell me what comes to mind when you think about middle school?

Jelena: I have a six-year-old daughter now and when I think back to […]

By | September 19th, 2014|Before They Were Scientists, Education|0 Comments

Before They Were Scientists: Daniel Solomon

Sitting down with Daniel Solomon, dean of the NC State College of Sciences, to talk about his middle school life was certainly a highpoint for the “Before They Were Scientists” series. In this interview Dean Solomon opened up about how his life as a child in the Bronx allowed him to appreciate a diverse learning environment, how he got in trouble trying to escape the island he lived on in Florida, and how his parents’ drive for him to go to medical school shaped so much of his young life.

Lea: Where were you in middle school? 

Daniel: In […]

By | September 15th, 2014|Before They Were Scientists, Education|0 Comments

Before They Were Scientists: Emilie Rissman

It was an honor to chat with biologist Dr. Emilie Rissman before she officially assumes the role of department head for the Department of Biological Sciences in the College of Sciences here at at NC State University. My M.O., of course, was to learn about her life as a middle school student and what it was about her particular experiences back then that brought her to where she is today. Read on to learn how her middle school years spanned very different experiences in Chicago and northern California, how she is decidedly unlike her artist father, and how she has […]

By | September 5th, 2014|Before They Were Scientists, Education|1 Comment

Before They Were Scientists: Peter Bijl

My second installment in a series of interviews from the Netherlands is with geoscientist and climate change expert, Dr. Peter Bijl. He recalls constantly observing his surroundings as a child and questioning why he didn’t get to use his ice skates as much as his parents. This childhood curiosity translated to a career trying to understand how the Earth works. Read on to learn about how being a scientist is more than just being the smartest person in class, the role of chance in science, and how Peter’s dad is his toughest critic.

Lea: You went to […]

By | August 29th, 2014|Before They Were Scientists, Education|0 Comments

Before They Were Scientists: Michelle Wcisel

In the swing of Shark Week, I was able to virtually sit down with white shark researcher, Michelle Wcisel. As we talked, I noticed a “Smarty Pants” mug full of pens resting on top of a dresser and a sticker-covered door visible just behind her shoulder. Books lined the walls behind her head and there was a sense of nostalgia all around her – it was as if she was sitting in her den recounting middle school life from the very place it happened. I enjoyed chatting with Michelle about how she, a land-locked Michigan native, evolved into a […]

By | August 22nd, 2014|Before They Were Scientists, Education|0 Comments

Before They Were Scientists: Eefjan Breukink

In planning a trip to the Netherlands for some secret missions for Your Wild Life, I reached out to area scientists to get a different perspective on middle school life. Motivated after reading about his involvement in a scientific debate, I contacted Dr. Eefjan Breukink at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Read on to learn about how this accomplished scientist decided he did not want to become a vet, has a fresh perspective on the meaning of “right” and “wrong” in science, and at the heart of it all — is still a kid inside.

Lea: Can we […]

By | August 14th, 2014|Before They Were Scientists, Education|0 Comments

Ant Picnic in the Amazon

This summer we had the unforgettable experience of doing science with elementary school children in a remote Amazonian river village.

We arrived by boat, accompanied by our Peruvian guide, Willy, who asked the local teacher if the kids would like to do a little science experiment with us.

Village Amazonian village in Peru. Photo credit: Michelle Trautwein

Fernando, the primary school teacher, agreed — but only after the kids finished carting their bananas to the river where they would be picked up and taken to market. Upon hearing this news, a pack of excited […]

By | August 11th, 2014|ants, Education|0 Comments

Before They Were Scientists: Claire Gordy

Dr. Claire Gordy (left) has always been a writer — in middle school she had a column in her local Oklahoma newspaper. Now she continues to write with support of her fellow SPIRE postdoctoral scholars at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Read on to learn how Claire Gordy got picked up in an interesting vehicle to get to dance class, the importance of taking time to write as a scientist, and hippopotamuses.

Lea: Let’s jog your memory about middle school: Where were you? What was it like? How was it?

Claire: I grew up in Edmond, […]

By | August 8th, 2014|Before They Were Scientists, Education|0 Comments

Jeni Corn and the Chimpanzees of Fire

At some point our ancestors tamed fire. With fire they could cook their food and store it. With fire they could light whole landscapes aflame. It has long been speculated that the impetus to tame fire was our shift into the African grasslands (out of the trees and down onto the scary ground). This idea was an untestable but plausible theory; it still is. But recently a chimpanzee, well actually a bonobo, friendlier kin to the chimp, may have given us a glimpse of what that moment might have looked like. Most chimpanzees are terrified of fire. They run from […]

By | August 5th, 2014|Education|2 Comments

Big Time Teachers, Deep Time Science

It’s been a couple weeks since we parted ways with the tightly knit cohort of Students Discover teacher-scientists. After three weeks of intense training at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, these 12 middle school teachers are ready to make history engaging their students in real scientific research. Three teachers teamed with a researcher from each of four labs in the Nature Research Center to develop a research question that students in their classrooms will help to answer.

In its vision, Students Discover does not lack in grandeur—teachers and museum researchers are working together on the breadth […]

By | August 4th, 2014|Education, Explainer|0 Comments

Before They Were Scientists: Rob Dunn

It seems kind of shocking that I’ve interviewed 32 scientists and science writers for our “Before They Were Scientists” series, and yet somehow our fearless leader, Dr. Rob Dunn, has escaped my probing questions about life in middle school. We’ve rectified that today. Read on to learn about the origins of Rob’s curiosity, his obsession with chasing critters (that’s him holding the two fish in the photo above), and his estimate for how many species live on and in the human body.

Lea: How did you first become interested in science?

Rob: The answer to any question like this one […]

By | August 1st, 2014|Before They Were Scientists, Education|1 Comment

Before They Were Scientists: Andrea Lucky

Today we take a journey back to middle school with ant biologist and School of Ants co-founder, Andrea Lucky. As a middle school student, she was bored with her suburban Ohio life and yearned for adventures that would get her out into “real nature.” Read on to learn how Andrea hunted for fossils in her backyard, wore a white coat and made rounds in the hospital with her physician mother, and tried, unsuccessfully, to be a sullen teenager.

Lea: What was middle school like for you? Where were you?

Andrea: I was in Cincinnati, Ohio. I went to the same […]

By | July 25th, 2014|Before They Were Scientists, Education|1 Comment

Students Discover: The third week

Time flies when you’re having fun (and working hard)! Last week marked the third and final week of our time with the Students Discover Kenan Fellows at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. The week was jam-packed with lab work, lesson planning, more small mammal trapping, visits behind-the-scenes to the Museum’s collections and Arthropod Zoo, and a special lunch with Dr. Emlyn Koster, the Museum’s director. Here are some highlights from his remarks to the group:

I think museums are increasingly vital resources. The experiences that you’ve all shared would not have been possible just a few years […]

By | July 21st, 2014|Education|0 Comments

Before They Were Scientists: Jiri Hulcr

In hearing about Jiri Hulcr‘s childhood growing up during the revolution in the Czech Republic, I gained some insight into how he approaches science. He can be seen in the above picture (the only photo of him during his middle school years) wearing the blue cap; this photo was taken at a traditional pig killing. The person steaming and shaving the pig was the butcher, and every single piece of the pig is utilized. For Jiri, these pig killings (and subsequent butcherings) were essential lessons in animal anatomy and how to be a part of a team. His research […]

By | July 18th, 2014|Before They Were Scientists, Education|0 Comments

Meet the 2014 Students Discover Fellows

As readers of our blog and Twitter feed well know, we’ve spent the last three weeks working side-by-side with 12 North Carolina middle school teachers at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. These teacher-scientists and Museum researchers have been busy in the field and at the lab bench, co-creating citizen science projects and lesson plans that the teachers will take back to their classrooms in the fall. The goal: Create opportunities for kids to do REAL science, to make new and exciting scientific discoveries. Hence the name of this project and the ever-present hash tag: #

By | July 17th, 2014|Education|0 Comments