Lab GirleBook - 2016
Acclaimed scientist Hope Jahren has built three laboratories in which she's studied trees, flowers, seeds, and soil. Her first book might have been a revelatory treatise on plant life. Lab Girl is that, but it is also so much more. Because in it, Jahren also shares with us her inspiring life story, in prose that takes your breath away.
Lab Girl is a book about work, about love, and about the mountains that can be moved when those two things come together. It is told through Jahren's remarkable stories: about the things she's discovered in her lab, as well as how she got there; about her childhood--hours of unfettered play in her father's laboratory; about how she found a sanctuary in science, and learned to perform lab work "with both the heart and the hands"; about a brilliant and wounded man named Bill, who became her loyal colleague and best friend; about their adventurous, sometimes rogue research trips, which take them from the Midwest all across the United States and over the Atlantic, from the ever-light skies of the North Pole to tropical Hawaii; and about her constant striving to do and be the best she could, never allowing personal or professional obstacles to cloud her dedication to her work.
Jahren's insights on nature enliven every page of this book. Lab Girl allows us to see with clear eyes the beautiful, sophisticated mechanisms within every leaf, blade of grass, and flower petal, and also the power within ourselves to face--with bravery and conviction--life's ultimate challenge: discovering who you are.
From the Hardcover edition.
From the critics
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Science has taught me that everything is more complicated than we first assume, and that being able to derive happiness from discovery is a recipe for a beautiful life.
"Being able to drive happiness from discovery is a recipe for a happy life" - Hope Jahren, "Lab Girl"
These two organisms--the wasp and the fig--have enjoyed this arrangement for almost ninety million years, evolving together through the extinction of the dinosaurs and across multiple ice ages. Theirs is like any epic love story, in that part of the appeal lies in its impossibility.
Unlike the overall character of winter, which may be mild one year and punishing the next, the pattern of how light changes through autumn is exactly the same every year...These plants know that when your world is changing rapidly, it is important to have identified the one thing that you can always count upon.
A seed knows how to wait. Most seeds wait for at least a year before starting to grow; a cherry seed can wait for a hundred years with no problem. What exactly each seed is waiting for is known only to that seed.
Now you ask a question about your leaf. Guess what? You are now a scientist. People will tell you that you have to know math to be a scientist, or physics or chemistry. They're wrong. That's like saying you have to know how to knit to be a housewife, or that you have to know Latin to study the Bible. Sure, it helps, but there will be time for that. What comes first is a question, and you're already there. It's not nearly as involved as people make it out to be. So let me tell you some stories, one scientist to another.
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The daughter of a community college science professor, Hope Jahren always felt at home in the laboratory, playing there while her father worked. After obtaining her PhD from UC Berkeley, she would go on to become a geobiologist, founding multiple laboratories, and winning honours from the Fulbright to the Young Investigator Medal. Part memoir, and part science, Lab Girl shares Jahren’s experiences from graduate school to tenured professor, and all the bumps along the way, including funding cuts, bipolar disorder, and changing institutions.
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