The Stories of Science we Never Considered

Author: Kristina Lenn
Editors: Christina Vallianatos and Whit Froehlich

I first read The Disappearing Spoon in 2012 while I was home from grad school on a break. As a chemical engineering student, nothing appealed more to me than a book about the periodic table. And I’m not referring to a typical chemistry textbook that discusses the different trends in the table as you go from left to right or top to bottom. This is a book that weaves together science, history, and the impact that the subjects of Mendeleev’s kingdom have had not only on the world but also on their discoverers.

Sam Kean, the New York Times best-selling author not only of The Disappearing Spoon but also of The Violinist’s Thumb, The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons, and Caesar’s Last Breath, has taken his passions for science, history, and writing and melded them together to create four books that were each Amazon’s top science book of the year. The books cover the periodic table, DNA, neuroscience, and the alchemy of air, respectively – all vastly different from one another yet equally enigmatic.

Continue reading “The Stories of Science we Never Considered”

The Quantum Quandary

Author: Kristina Lenn

Editors: Alex Taylor, Zuleirys Santana-Rodriguez, and Whit Froehlich

My absolute favorite movie is The Imitation Game with Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, and I love this movie for these reasons:

  1. The lesson of not giving in to naysayers is showcased throughout the movie.
  2. As a computationalist, I am proud to see my field obtain more visibility in the public eye.
  3. And duh – Benedict Cumberbatch!

However, one of my favorite scenes in the movie is when school-age Alan Turing is walking with his only friend, Christopher. Alan’s perceived oddities make him a target of ridicule among his classmates, but Christopher makes this very poignant statement: “Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.” Continue reading “The Quantum Quandary”

MARVELous Solar Cells

Author: Kristina Lenn

Editors: Christina Vallianatos, Andrew McAllister, and Sarah Kearns

Spoiler: For a better reading experience, make sure to see the amazing Doctor Strange!


I love Marvel movies, and they’re even more fun to watch as a scientist. In many of them, some energy source is at risk of falling into the wrong hands. Lest the source destroy not only the planet but also the entire galaxy, a bunch of unlikely misfits band together to ensure the energy source’s safety and security. The power source in question is something that has the paradoxical capability of both sustaining and destroying life, like the sun. Extraterrestrial battles take place with the brutish Hulk and the witty turbo-powered Iron Man. (Or, if you prefer Guardians of the Galaxy, you can fight with the smart-aleck Rocket and the cute-yet-somewhat-airheaded Groot.) The bad guys want to use this energy to have unlimited power; the good guys want to harness the energy in a more controlled manner.

Continue reading “MARVELous Solar Cells”

Where is Wonder Woman?

Author: Kristina Lenn

Editors: Stephanie Hamilton and Whit Froehlich

I hate to admit it, but I still have yet to see this movie that everyone is raving about and says is better than Man of Steel and Batman. But as a woman, I find it encouraging to have a female superhero join the likes of Spiderman and Superman who have many movies featuring their exploits. It’s nice to see that Hollywood is finally starting to portray women as more than damsels in distress needing male superheroes to come to their rescue.  Continue reading “Where is Wonder Woman?”

So You Want to be a Scientist

Author: Kristina Lenn

Editors: Alex Taylor, Zena Lapp, and Scott Barolo

People say that “love” is probably the most abused word in the English language. I disagree. I think the word that is most misused is “genius.”

I taught engineering at Wayne State University for three years, and the class I taught that was most frustrating for the students was programming. Many of my students would come to me and say how discouraged they were; how they seemed to be behind everyone else; and how they thought they should already know how to do everything. My response was, “If you already knew how to do it, why would you need the class? It’s required for a reason.” In fact, many of them would look at me and say, “You hardly even think about the answer. You just start typing the code and it magically works.” I had to remind them that I’d been teaching for years and programming for almost a decade.

Continue reading “So You Want to be a Scientist”

Conversations about Science Writing: Nick Wigginton

MiSciWriters member Kristina Lenn chatted with Nick Wigginton, the assistant vice president of research at the University of Michigan, about the importance of communication among researchers and the big responsibility science writers carry in the current political climate.

 

 Anyone who has ever done collaborative research can list the benefits of being able to work with another group and learn about the cultural differences between researchers. Dr. Nick Wigginton knows better than anyone else how important communication is to successful collaborations.

Prior to his tenure at Michigan, Dr. Wigginton received his doctorate in Earth Science, and his dissertation was a collaborative effort by his department, physics, chemistry, and biology. This interdisciplinary gauntlet gave him the tools he needed to succeed as an editor for Science magazine where he needed to address the research and cultures of multiple departments.

Continue reading “Conversations about Science Writing: Nick Wigginton”