Genre: science nonfiction memoir
Length: 290 pages
Font: Iowan Old Style
Setting: various locations, mostly in the U.S., about the 1980s to the present
Interest: It’s a science memoir. I was interested as soon as I saw the book in The Modern Mrs. Darcy’s summer reading list and at my library.
Summary: Hope decided at a young age that she wanted to be a scientist, even if she didn’t get too much support. In college, Hope worked in the pharmacy of a hospital, but was soon able to work in a research lab. As a grad student out in the field looking at soils, Hope meets Bill. Bill, then an undergrad, remains with Hope for the rest of her scientific career. Bill helps put together the equipment and experiments Hope needs for her research. He also keeps the lab running when Hope’s mental health problems get the best of her. Hope has to scramble for funding for much of her career, but she always manages to find enough for her research and Bill’s salary, eventually. Hope’s stories as a scientist alternate with chapters on botany.
Final thoughts: I enjoyed this book because it brought me back into the world of being a scientist (I have a Master’s in Fisheries and I started my Ph.D. work). I like my life now and I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t be as happy as a full-time researcher, but I can still dream at times. I thought Hope’s success as a researcher was tied to her friendship with Bill. Like so many friendships, it started randomly, but they were a perfect complement to each other. I don’t think Hope would have been so successful without Bill by her side through all the tough times. I’m going to guess there was a bit of friction between Bill and Hope’s fiance, at least at the beginning of their relationship. It is rare to see a strictly platonic relationship between a woman and a man.
This would also be a great book for a woman starting out in science. It provides pretty unvarnished truths about being a scientist, and especially being a woman in science and all the big and little bits of sexism you are likely to experience.
The interstitial chapters on botany were a nice interlude to Hope’s life. There were some interesting tidbits of botany that I learned from those chapters.
Title comes from: The book was about a female scientist who did at least some of her research in a lab.
Reading challenges fulfilled: #63 in my Maybe 100 This Year Challenge
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