Hope is a tenured professor of Geobiology at University of Hawaii Manoa who studies “living and fossil organisms and how they are chemically linked to the global environment”.
She writes a blog that’s full of sass and spunk about ‘relationships between men and women in academia’ and so much more. Her irreverent, hilarious tone could probably only come from someone who has tenure and/or is very brave; somehow, though, I get the feeling that a lot of the words written on her blog would have also been freely spoken at faculty meetings (even pre-tenure). This comic about how to get a faculty job is one of my favorites.
Because I so enjoyed her writing style and brutal honesty on her blog, I was excited to hear (from Lauren – thanks, Lauren!) that Hope was publishing a book about her memoirs as a scientist coming of age, Lab Girl.
I downloaded the book on my phone reading app the first day it was available. (Dude – have you tried reading books on your phone!? It’s awesome being able to read something interesting during my 2 minute incubations in lab instead of looking at the same pictures on my Instagram feed over and over again!) I started reading the book thinking I would be mumbling words of agreement under my breath because of our shared experiences as women in science. Instead, I found that Hope’s scientific and personal journeys have been quite different from my own, but that those differences made the read even more enjoyable.
I have to admit that at first, her stories from starting up her own lab in her mid-twenties were more terrifying than inspiring (and entertaining – her stories are all entertaining). She went through a lot to get her lab set up and to make it as a scientist. I was exhausted just reading about the sheer determination and will-power she had to exert in order to get to where she is today. And yet – she had so much fun doing it! And so many ridiculous adventures!
By the end of the book, I was amazed and inspired by her journey and was no longer exhausted by all the work it took for her to get to where she is. I was reminded (for about the 1000th time, but still it’s good to be reminded) that doing hard things is worth it (most of the time).
I don’t want to give away anything from her book because you should totally read it and there are a few surprises in there that keep you on your toes, but here are a few teasers: There is a lot of sleeping in cars, home-made mass-spectrometers, trips around the world for specimen collection, and a very unique relationship with her lab manager. Oh, and you will learn a lot about plants. The other day, I got really sad watching a bunch of workers chop down a tree because I now have a much better appreciation for how damn difficult it was for that tree to become a tree.
Check out Hope's entertaining twitter feed, @HopeJahren. If you read between the lines, it seems like her lab is maybe moving soon...? I'm excited to see where she ends up.