Being a Woman in STEM: The Computer Scientist Behind Elements of Evil

“What kind of hurdles have you faced as a woman in STEM? What do you wish people had done differently to support you in your career goals? What kind of role models have you looked up to?” The first few times I heard these questions and their many variations, I was taken aback. Why were people acting as though choosing to study computers was something impressive and groundbreaking?

It took me some time to realize that these people thought I was brave for studying software, in part because building technology feels so alien, a mysterious realm that only stereotypical “smart people” could ever understand. I realized too that some were impressed that I would pick a field that could be very isolating due to the scarcity of other girls. In many of my classes, the girls were outnumbered 14 to one (or more!). Taken with a certain perspective, these two things together could be very daunting.

The thing was, these hadn’t occurred to me before other people pointed them out. Computers were just a puzzle to figure out, and I’ve always liked puzzles. I’m actually not intrinsically tech-savvy: any skills I have come from hours of hard work and stubbornness. I can be very stubborn. I took my first computer class on a dare, and had decided I would not let the programs beat me, no matter how many late nights and tears it took. Well, it took many late nights and tears, but I came out the winner.

As for the extreme ratio of men to women…well, I’m not “one of the guys,” but I’m one of the team. And I’m happy with that. We have good conversations talking about code and commiserating about bugs (and sometimes branch out to talk about day-to-day life). And when I get supersaturated by tech talk, I go to my friends outside of work to enjoy the sunshine (computer labs are notoriously indoors), or discuss the latest book I’ve read (assuming I had time for reading), or just talk about the weather (meteorology is fascinating).

I was lucky. I was taught that no particular field should be characterized by a mindset where one person or group “can” and the other “can’t.” The men and women that influenced me most were those who led me to think that I should learn about and succeed wherever I could find excitement and the drive to work hard – whether computers, history, psychology, or any of thousands of other things. Those people were critical in shaping how I saw myself in the world. Surrounded by supportive role models at home and at school, I never noticed when I was leaping hurdles.

A sincere congratulations to Brooke and her husband on their newborn baby as well! Thanks for sharing your experience about being a woman in STEM, Brooke. If you’d like to learn more about Brooke’s book, Elements of Evil, you can find it here.


Microbes: A Microbiology Picture Book

All around us there are organisms that are invisible to the naked eye, organisms called microbes. You can learn all about microbes in the adorable new picture book Microbes by Amy Gallagher. ThunderStone Book is proud to announce that this creative look at microorganisms is coming to a store near you in November!

Today we welcome Amy Gallagher, author of Microbes, to tell us more about herself and her upcoming book.

 

About Microbes

 

 

Microbes is a fun and educational book on microbiology. It gives an overview of six different types of microbes, including bacteria, viruses, fungi, algae, protozoa and archaea. I combine easy-to-understand, digestible information with playful, zany characters that represent different microscopic organisms. My intentions for this book are to engage the reader’s attention, spark their interest in science, and make learning an overall positive, enjoyable, and enlightening experience.

 

 

 

The idea for Microbes

My attention into microbiology was first caught upon a visit to the Grant’s Museum of Zoology in London. This museum contained an amazing vast collection of 20,000 microscope slides, representing tiny creatures that make the majority of life.

I began reading further into the wonder of the microscopic world, especially microbiology. During my research, I noted many books and websites using very dull, black and white, accurate illustrations or plain photographs to offer a visual insight into this secret universe. As a practising children’s illustrator, I wanted to breathe life and excitement back into this subject, and came up with the idea to produce a fun and educational book around Microbiology.

 

What is your favorite type of microbe?

My favourite type of microbe is archaea. They are amazingly resilient organisms that can withstand and thrive in extreme environments. There is much still unknown about archaea, yet I look forward to scientists unearthing more fascinating facts and interesting information!

 

How did you become an illustrator/author?

I’ve been working as a freelance illustrator since university, yet I’ve been creative and handy with a pencil from a very young age. After graduating university with a degree in Illustration & Visual Media in 2015, it felt natural to continue with my creative path. I’ve been producing children’s illustration, design, greeting cards and comics since graduating in 2015. After creating Microbes in the same year, it’s been a goal of mine to share it with the world, and fulfil my desire to make learning a more fun experience for children. I am thrilled that Thunderstone Books share the same ethos and are excited by the book as much as I am. It’s spurring me on to continue as a illustrator, and I plan to write and illustrate more fun educational books for young audiences!

 

What are your favorite picture books?

I love children’s books that possess a strong message, contain distinctive beautiful illustrations, and aren’t afraid to tackle taboo subjects or cheeky humour. One of my favourite books growing up was a book called The Story of the Little Mole who knew it was none of his business.

It follows a grumpy mole on his quest to find out who did their business on his head. I’m also a huge fan on Tove Jansson’s Moomin books.

 

 

Tove Jansson is my favourite children’s author and illustrator. Her precious books cover themes of family, nature, adventure, philosophy and also subtly tackles difficult subjects such as loss, gender, and sexuality.

 

 

 

What advice would you give to young readers?

Don’t stop reading! Literature enriches and expands your mind! It can be enjoyed in different mediums such as paperbacks, e-readers, newspapers, magazines, blog posts, comics and graphic novels. I understand that young readers have a pressure to mature into reading material with less and less pictures, and heavier on words. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing, but the combination of word and art can support each other, and can make the material more engaging. Therefore having time for both types of material should still be encouraged, shared and enjoyed!


The Gift Guide for Science Lovers

It’s that time of year when you are trying to decide the perfect gift for loved ones. If one of those loved ones is a science enthusiast, then we have some ideas that will not break your budget but will be perfectly science-y.

 

  1. usb_microscopeUSB Microscopes.

Microscopes are a lot of fun, but are not usually very portable. However, USB microscopes are lightweight and small. You simply plug the microscope into your laptop and start looking at the world up close and personal! If you are planning on giving this as a Christmas gift, make sure to order early so that your USB microscope arrives in time. Free shipping when you order microscopes from ThunderStone Books!

 

  1. Gallium.

Gallium is an element that has a melting point of 85.58 degrees Fahrenheit. That means that gallium will start to melt if you hold it in your hand for a little while. If you want to really have some fun, buy your friend some gallium and a spoon mold; then your science-lover can put the gallium in the spoon mold and then use the gallium spoon to stir hot liquid and watch it melt!

 

  1. cover_2eoeoutlineScience Books.Elements of Evil notebook cover.indd

One of the best things about Christmas vacation is that there is finally some down time for reading and so a science book could be the Christmas gift that keeps your science-lover occupied all Christmas vacation. If you are looking for science books for adults, here are some of our favorites:

  • The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean
  • What If? by Randall Munro
  • Hyperspace by Michio Kaku
  • Six Easy Pieces by Richard Feynman

If you are looking for science books for kids, it is good to choose something with experiments that can be performed at home (and make for exciting Christmas vacation activities). Check out Elements of Evil and the corresponding Your Elements of Evil Notebook because it is full of codes, wacky experiments, and supervillainy. What young science enthusiast can resist that?

 

  1. Makey Makey

This little device turns ordinary objects into touchpads and combines them with the internet. Last year for Christmas, ThunderStone Books co-founder Robert Noorda used his Makey Makey to play the song “Jingle Bells” with people. He gave several wires to family members to hold (the wires were connected to the Makey Makey) and then by tapping the heads of family members, Rob could play the song. It was a blast! You can visit http://www.makeymakey.com/ for more information.

 

  1. Invisible Ink

There are two things that would be easy to do with invisible ink as a gift. For one, you could make an invisible ink kit for your science-lover. The great thing about such a kit is that you only need regular household items like lemon juice, Q-tips, grape juice, baking soda, and containers (depending on what kinds of invisible ink you are making). Another idea is to make your own invisible ink and use it to write a series of letters as a gift. Make sure to give your science-lover instructions about how to read the messages!


CheMystery

chemystery cover small

 

What if two kids became superheroes and set out to save the world through chemistry? In a new exciting and educational graphic novel from ThunderStone Books, two kids do just that!

ThunderStone Books is proud to officially announce that in March 2017, CheMystery, the tale of science and superpowers, will be hitting the shelves.

Today we welcome author, Christopher Preece, who is going to introduce himself CheMystery, his upcoming graphic novel.

 

 

I hail from the foothills of Appalachia in Pilgrim, KY. I have an extensive background in chemistry with a B.S. from Morehead State University and many graduate chemistry credits from the University of Kentucky, where I will be continuing my education to obtain a Ph.D. in Science Education. I have been teaching high school chemistry for the past 5 years, which has been a blast, literally and figuratively. I enjoy reading comic books, traveling and eating. We all have to eat, why not make it an adventure? I love all things science, especially physical science and applying those concepts in different ways to educate others.
Chriswebsite

How did you get the idea for CheMystery?

The idea for a comic that teaches chemistry started to manifest after reading 3 comics: Solar: Man of the Atom by Jim Shooter (Dark Horse series), Suspended Language by Jim Ottaviani, Howtoons by Fred Van Lente and Think Tank by Matt Hawkins. I read all of these around the same time and each contributed a little more to the idea of a chemistry comic to teach being a possibility. Each contributed a unique idea to the melting pot from how to present heavy educational materials along side a narrative to how to integrate it into a narrative.

Do you have a favorite element?

Yes, 2 in fact. Mercury (Hg), which I did my graduate research on how to remediate it from coal burning power plants. How cool is it that it’s the ONLY liquid metal? Antimony (Sb) is the other favorite. Initially it was my favorite because of the obscure name and name and symbol mismatch but it has a lot of interesting chemistry and uses, like in cosmetics to provide luster!

What first got you interested in comics and graphic novels?

My uncle, Dan, was in the comic industry while I was growing up and his love of the medium spilled over to me. My passion for the medium has continued to evolve into incorporate my passion for science education. Firestorm is one of my favorite characters and his ability to transmutate matter always fascinated me.

Why do you love science, especially chemistry?

As a high school student I gravitated toward chemistry. The concept of atoms and subatomic particles really captivated me. To think that we are made of trillions upon trillions of atoms, and that a single one is invisible to the naked eye, is wild. To think that electrons orbit the atom and move to make light is intriguing and to think about how an electron is both a particle and a wave is mind-blowing. There are so many things in our world that are unknown and science helps us explain those things.

What comic books and graphic novels would you recommend for science lovers?

There are more out there than you would think!

Jim Ottaviani has written several great science graphic novels, which take us through the lives of great scientists like Neil Bohr. Suspended Language is my favorite, but all his books are very enjoyable.

Think Tank by Matt Hawkins, which has a science section in the back explaining all the science he researches and uses in his book.

Howtoons by Fred Van Lente. This is a comic geared toward engineering. It has a captivating narrative and shows how to make cool contraptions that are used in the story.

Most things that captivate me I discuss on my blog.

What are your favorite comic books and graphic novels?

As for non-science comics some of my favorites include: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (IDW), Princess Ugg (Oni Press), Scott Pilgrim (Oni Press), Solar: Man of the Atom (Dark Horse), Captain America by Ed Brubaker (Marvel), Inhumans by Paul Jenkins (Marvel), Firestorm by Gerry Conway (DC) and Legion of Superheroes by Mark Waid (DC).

 

Chemystery page 3Chemystery page 2Chemystery page 1

 

Thanks, Chris, for introducing yourself and your upcoming book! You can look out for CheMystery, coming March 2017. Check out more at his website!


The Inspiration for Elements of Evil

A blog post from the author of Elements of Evil.

Note from ThunderStone Books: The road that led to the publishing of Elements of Evil was paved from a young age by those who got us excited about science. These taught us that science is more than a class at school, it’s a way of looking at the world. Through authors like Brooke Arnold, Bill Nye and Ms. Frizzle not only live on but continue to reach and inspire new generations.

Brookearnoldnewauthorphoto

When people hear that I wrote and published a book, usually their first reaction is “Wow! Really?” followed by “What’s it about?” I get mixed reactions when they hear that it’s about a girl who wants to become a supervillain by using science. Most kids get a big grin on their face. Most adults do a double-take, usually accompanied by either an appreciative laugh or a quizzical smile. “Where on earth did that come from?” they seem to be asking. To me, it just makes sense.

Bill Nye

When I was little, even while I dreamed about becoming a “draw-er” or “professional horse rider,” I also loved watching shows like Bill Nye the Science Guy or The Magic School Bus and learning about how things work. I’ve always discovering the “how” and “why” about life, especially things that seemed particularly mysterious.

The curly hair and love for science are just a few of the things that Brooke and Ms Frizzle have in common!

I feel that way about books too–hand-waving should be used judiciously. You should always be able to explain why and how something happens. So when I grew up and decided to write a story about a child supervillain, I realized I had a challenge to overcome. Superheroes and supervillains aren’t “super” without an extra something to make them that way (like Dr. Horrible’s freeze ray or Superman’s x-ray vision). Rather than trying to create my own magic or use fake inventions, I realized I wanted my super-person to use something that already exists: real-life science. To a little girl like Bernice in my story, and to a grown-up girl like me, that was by far the most sensible thing. After all, the reality of life is as magical and powerful as anything imaginary.

Elements of Evil is available now from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Barnes and Noble, or our website here!


Elements of Evil Launches!

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Brooke Arnold, author and scientist, announced Bernice and Bunsen to the world on Tuesday, October 20, 2015 at Provo Library in Utah.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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There were activities such as coloring, code-cracking, playing with oobleck and seeing the world through a microscope to entertain all the young scientists in attendance.

 

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And don’t forget delicious veggies, “worms” and Bunsen cupcakes: food fit for a hedgehog!

 

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Congratulations to Brooke on her brilliant debut, with many more Bernice and Bunsen adventures to come in the future.

 

 

 

You can get your own copy of Elements of Evil here.