Monday, October 3, 2016

Kickstart This! Super Cool Scientists Coloring Book

There have been so many really great "women in science" Kickstarter projects lately, it's hard to keep up! So many are about the influential women in history who've contributed to their scientific fields but who've been left out of the history books. This kind of re-writing history is, of course, very close to my heart. But I also think it's important to share the stories of contemporary women who are doing super cool science stuff right now!

Sara MacSorley agrees! And that's why she came up with the fantastic idea for her Super Cool Scientists Coloring Book. Sara, a science-lover herself, wanted to share the stories of some of the amazing women out there working hard in their fields as a way of inspiring other young science-lovers to pursue their dreams. Of course, I wanted to know more about her inspiration and this project. She was kind enough to chat with me about the importance science plays in her life and a couple of stories about the women she's been inspired by.

SRPS: First of all, can you tell us a little about yourself? What's your background? What inspires you?

SM: I studied marine biology in college, thinking from a young age that I wanted to be a research scientist "when I grew up". However, when I had my first independent research project, I realized it wasn't really for me. It was nerve wracking because no one had ever told me what else you could do with a science degree besides research.

Luckily for me, I had some great mentors that got me into science outreach, education, and communication. Turns out there is a whole lot you can do with a science degree that takes place outside of research/field work and with out a lab coat.

After college, I got into higher education work which included a tuition waiver. At that point, I completed a Masters in Business Administration in the evenings while working full time. Eventually, I got more into project administration and am still working in higher education.

I'm inspired by the stories of dynamic people making incredible scientific discoveries. It's amazing to me how much we still have to learn.

SRPS: What is it that attracted you to marine biology, and science in general?

SM: I've always been a planner and organizer, my brain works very analytically so the scientific process made sense to me. I grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, surrounded by rivers, the Chesapeake Bay, and the Atlantic Ocean. Trips to Ocean City and the National Aquarium sparked my love for the oceans and all the creatures in them at an early age.

SRPS: Why is it important to you to share your love of science with others?

SM: Science is around us every day and it helps us to understand so much about how systems work - from technology to our own bodies. Plus, there are an influx of science and technology careers out there and we need the full diversity of our communities to help solve today's global challenges. Different perspectives and creative thinking help us come up with new ideas.

Science can also be intimidating. We tend to be uneasy about things we're unfamiliar with so that is why I think science communication is so important. We can start breaking down those barriers by sharing the stories of individuals to make scientists more relatable and by explaining scientific concepts and issues in ways that non-scientists and non-academics can relate to and care about.

SRPS: Who are some of the women you've selected to feature?

SM: I tried to pick dynamic women who were amazing at their scientific work and also in other aspects of their lives. For example, Dr. Ashanti Johnson is a trained coastal oceanographer and played a huge role in starting MS PHD's (Minorities Striving and Pursuing Higher Degrees of Success in Earth Science) - a fantastic organization supporting more students of coloring in masters and doctorate programs in the sciences. Now, Ashanti is the Superintendent of the Cirrus Academy STEAM Charter School in Georgia.

Dr. Karin Muraszko is another amazing scientist and doctor. She is the Chair of Neurosurgery at the University of Michigan and manages administrative duties, teaching, and surgery. Karin is also a mother of twins and does major outreach work in Guatemala providing health care to children. Since a very young age, Karin knew she wanted to go into medicine from all the doctors she met as a child - she has spina bifida - and she wanted to be that person to other people.

SRPS: Thanks for the rough sketches of some of your favorites. It looks like your focus is on women currently working in their fields. This is really exciting! What made you decide to do that?

SM: One of my biggest goals with the book is to have young people see themselves in these types of roles. While there is certainly still a place to highlight the stories of amazing women in science throughout history, I wanted this project to be about women currently out there doing this work right now. Personally, I think its easier to relate to careers if they are presented in our current context.

SRPS: Books about women in science are quite popular right now, but this is the first coloring book of this type I've seen. Why a coloring book?

SM: Over the past year or two I've learned that coloring helps me personally with my anxiety. I was looking for an outside-work project that could re-inspire me and that put me on the science writing track. I wanted to do something different and there wasn't a coloring book like this out there that helped tell the stories of the amazing women doing work in science and technology right now.

SRPS: Who is your target audience?

SM: Since its a combination of stories and illustrations to color, a wide range of people will like this book. The stories will be written for a school age audience in that scientific vocabulary will be explained, we'll avoid jargon, etc. An older audience of college students and adults though will also find the stories interesting.

My hope is that the book helps young people see the wide range of science careers that could be options for them to explore.

SRPS: Congrats on making your initial goal! That's exciting. What's next? Any stretch goals?

SM: Thanks! I'm super excited! Meeting the first goal means we can move ahead making an awesome product for all our supporters. The first stretch goal is $15,000 - if we meet that, we'll add additional scientists and find out how to make science tattoos (temporary) to share with our backers. What's next either way is me and the illustrator, Yvonne Page, getting to work. We already have a lot of the feature stories and illustrations drafted so its making final versions, collecting feedback, and filling in the last few open slots that comes next.

If you haven't already backed this project, you really need to get on it! I think I'll be ordering a couple of coloring books to share with some of my favorite little scientists!

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