Establishing yourself as a scientist takes an awfully long time. The riskiest part is learning what a true scientist is and then taking the first shaky steps down that path, which will become a road, which will become a highway, which will maybe someday lead you home. A true scientist doesn’t perform prescribed experiments; she develops her own and thus generates wholly new knowledge. This transition between doing what you’re told and telling yourself what to do generally occurs midway through a dissertation. In many ways, it is the most difficult and terrifying thing that a student can do, and being unable or unwilling to do it is much of what weeds people out of Ph.D. programs.
...because I am a female scientist, nobody knows what the hell I am, and it has given me the delicious freedom to make it up as i go along.
There is no time to discuss the fact that this horrible, horrible system is not working, or to assert that we are neither criminals or machines. There are only endless medication orders, given by exhausted people with nobody better than us to depend on.
The evasion of justice within academia is all the more infuriating because the course of sexual harassment is so predictable. Since I started writing about women and science, my female colleagues have been moved to share their stories with me; my inbox is an inadvertent clearinghouse for unsolicited love notes.
Every acorn on the ground is just as alive as the three-hundred-year-old oak tree that towers over it.
Like all professors, I also do a lot of extra jobs for which I was never trained, such as advising former students as they navigate the wider world.
During the mid-1990s, I collected thousands of hackberry fruits from trees all across the Midwest. I chemically analyzed each seed in order to formulate an equation relating the hackberry's mineral makeup to the summer temperature under which it grew.
We must feed, shelter, and nurture one another as our first priority, and to do so, we must avail ourselves of our best technologies, which have always included some type of genetic modification.
I think we get used to not seeing the green things around us. I think they become the backdrop of our lives. And I think you actively have to ask somebody to request that they put that in the foreground.
I was a promising graduate student. I landed a position as a professor before I even started to write my dissertation. While I prepared to start my new job, I decided that I would begin by studying the brine that bleeds sideways within the rocks that underlie the inner Aegean region of Turkey.
One cannot rule out a blizzard in Minnesota after Labor Day, and so when I travel for Thanksgiving or any time in the fall, I am careful to fly into Des Moines instead of Minneapolis and then drive the 200 miles north to my hometown.
Science is so incremental and so full of setbacks and small steps forward. In order to really thrive in this business, you have to be able to glean as much joy from the failure days and from the small increments as you do from the breakthroughs.
Plants are decisive to a fault. A stem produces a bud that flowers once and once only. It offers pollen that is either dispersed or goes nowhere. One pollen grain either enters a stigma or it falls upon stony ground. An ovum is either fertilized or the whole project stalls out.
A cactus doesn't live in the desert because it likes the desert; it lives there because the desert hasn't killed it yet.
My earliest memories are being in the lab, and the way the cement felt and the way it smelled, and the way the countertops looked and it just being this wonderful, warm, happy place where it was just full of toys.
The live oak can grow sturdily on the hottest hills of central California, contrasting dark green against the golden grass.
In my Scandinavian-American family, we were conditioned never to sit, at least not comfortably. I was endlessly going back to work. We longed for the fleeting respite of being useful and regarded sleep as a reward for exhaustion, always to be deferred until after the sun goes down.
We must continue as in millennia past, nourishing the future as we feed ourselves and, each year, plant only the very best of what we have collectively engineered.
You can't drive through Iowa and not think about farming: No less than 85 percent of the land in the state is devoted to farms, many of them more than 1,000 acres. This is the place where seeds are sown. It's where farmers grow the corn that will be fed to pigs as grain or fed to you as syrup or fermented to ethanol for your gas tank.
I grew up in a time when there were very few women in the physical sciences. And people started to ask me, 'How did you decide to become a scientist?' And I couldn't really answer. I always knew I'd grow up to have a lab because my dad had one.