Lab Girl

Lab Girl

by Hope Jahren

Overview:Geobiologist Hope Jahren has spent her life studying trees, flowers, seeds, and soil. Lab Girl is her revelatory treatise on plant life—but it is also a celebration of the lifelong curiosity, humility, and passion that drive every scientist. In these pages, Hope takes us back to her Minnesota childhood, where she spent hours in unfettered play in her father’s college laboratory. She tells us how she found a sanctuary in science, learning to perform lab work “with both the heart and the hands.” She introduces us to Bill, her brilliant, eccentric lab manager. And she extends the mantle of scientist to each one of her readers, inviting us to join her in observing and protecting our environment. Warm, luminous, compulsively readable, Lab Girl vividly demonstrates the mountains that we can move when love and work come together.

Faith Bowers (05/21/17): My sister was recommending this book at our book club and then it was reviewed here. So I had to read it. It is a wonderful sharing of both trees, plants and special relationships. I really enjoyed the science although I am not a scientist and especially enjoyed the personal growth of Hope Jahren. Thank you for the recommendations.
Rating: ****

Carol Sherman (05/08/17): Lab Girl is a 2016 memoir by Hope Jahren, an American geochemist, geobiologist, and professor. Her memoir won the 2016 National Book Critics Circle Award Hope was born and grew up in small-town southeastern Minnesota, just a few miles north of the Iowa border. She completed her Ph.D. at the University of California at Berkeley in 1996, and then took an Assistant Professor position at the Georgia Institute of Technology. In 1999 she was hired by Johns Hopkins University and went on to become the first woman ever to be promoted with tenure within their Earth and Planetary Sciences Department (est. 1876). In 2008 she was hired to build the Isotope Geobiology Laboratories at the University of Hawaii. She is one of four scientists, and the only woman, to have been awarded both of the Young Investigator Medals given within the Earth Sciences. She has been the recipient of three Fulbright Awards and in 2005, Popular Science named her one of the "Brilliant 10" young scientists in the United States. She currently resides in Oslo, Norway with her husband, their son, and their Chesapeake Bay Retriever dog.

This autobiography intermingles chapters about Hope’s life, feelings, challenges, high and low moments, with chapters about her findings and astonishing plant and tree statistics. At times this scientific information becomes more poetic as she describes the wonder and love she found in her explorations. Plants and trees and their seeds can be dormant for decades, even centuries, and still produce more offsprings! We meet her lifetime best friend and colleague, Bill, who began to work with Hope when she set up her first lab at Georgia Tech and followed her as she moved to other labs, eventually married and had a son. Bill went all over the world with Hope as they researched and gave small groups of their students out of the classroom, on site lab experience.

This is a story of friendship, struggles, feelings, mental illness, a female career as a university professor and scientist in a male world. It begins when Hope as a young girl, loves to help her father set up the physics labs each evening for his college students’ class the next day. You can follow Hope and get up to date information about Hope at her web site http://jahrenlab.com/hope-jahren-education.

I really enjoyed this book. At the time I read it I only had an audio copy. This had pros and cons. The pro was the gift of being read the book by Hope. Through Hope’s voice I got to feel her emotions, her passion for her work, her love of Bill, her struggles with her bipolar disorder which spanned many years. The con was listening mostly in the evenings as I wound down my day and would often fall asleep with no page marker way to mark where I drifted off! I rate this book a 4+.
Rating: ****+

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