Lab Girl (Large Print / Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews


With good humor, plenty of science, scattered literary allusions and the occasional sarcastic zinger, Hope Jahren's Lab Girl is the sublime memoir of a plant research scientist and her struggles to find professional success, love and family. Inspired by her science professor father, Jahren worked her way through the University of Minnesota as a hospital pharmacy tech, considering a career in medicine until she realized that "the hospital was a place where you confined a sick person and then pumped medication through him until he died or got better." Also attracted to literature, she quickly recognized a preference for science that "didn't talk about books that had been written to analyze other books that had originally been written as retelling of ancient books."

After earning her Ph.D. from UC Berkeley, she grabbed a rare assistant professor opportunity at Georgia Tech and, with her lab tech sidekick, Bill, moved to the fertile ecology of the South. With only a start-up financial commitment from the university, she and Bill cobbled together a science lab out of flea market odds and ends. Bill lived in his van as Jahren feverishly applied for federal research grants. The rest, as they say, is history: three Fulbright awards, numerous publications, several outstanding scientist and teacher awards, a world-class lab and tenured professorship at the University of Hawaii, and a devoted mathematician husband and baseball-crazed son--with the eccentric, foul-mouthed, patient, chain-smoking and ingenious Bill at her side all the way.

That takes care of Jahren's personal life story, but Lab Girl is also packed with plenty about the ins and outs of science. Who knew that "the average land plant is a two-ton tree that lives for more than one hundred years," or that "of the many million seeds dropped on every acre of the Earth's surface each year, less than 5 percent will begin to grow. Of those, only 5 percent will survive to their first birthday"? No wonder she describes someone in her field as "a stoic researcher with a strong sense of fatalism." Without undo whining, Jahren points out that "the Department of Homeland Security... commands an annual budget that is fully five times larger than that of the entire [National Science Foundation], while the Department of Defense's mere 'discretionary' budget comes to more than sixty times that sum," suggesting that "science for war will always pay better than science for knowledge."

She and Bill banter about broken cordless drills, experiments gone bad and poorly written grad student theses (one of which she compares to "the famous 'Lucky's Think' monologue in Waiting for Godot"). Jahren emerges as a smart, practical, good-hearted woman who loves her work and also finds joy in her husband, young son and best friend, Bill. She eventually realizes that after years of "trying to make my life into something... all the truly valuable pieces fall from the sky undeserved. I used to pray to be made stronger; now I pray to be made grateful."

— Bruce Jacobs

April 2016 Indie Next List


“This book has it all: nature, love, science, drama, heartbreak, joy, and plenty of dirt. Not since Cheryl Strayed's Wild have I read such a rich and compelling nonfiction narrative. Lab Girl is the story of Jahren's life in science, and her writing on the wonders of nature will renew your sense of awe. But more than that, it is an exploration of friendship, mental illness, parenthood, and the messiness of life. The only flaw -- these pages fly by too quickly, leaving you wondering what you could possibly read next that will be just as good.”
— Pete Mulvihill (W), Green Apple Books, San Francisco, CA

Description


An illuminating debut memoir of a woman in science; a moving portrait of a longtime friendship; and a stunningly fresh look at plants that will forever change how you see the natural world
Acclaimed scientist Hope Jahren has built three laboratories in which she's studied trees, flowers, seeds, and soil. Her first book is a revelatory treatise on plant life but it is also so much more.
"
Lab Girl" is a book about work, love, and the mountains that can be moved when those two things come together. It is told through Jahren's remarkable stories: about her childhood in rural Minnesota with an uncompromising mother and a father who encouraged hours of play in his classroom's labs; about how she found a sanctuary in science, and learned to perform lab work done with both the heart and the hands; and about the inevitable disappointments, but also the triumphs and exhilarating discoveries, of scientific work.
Yet at the core of this book is the story of a relationship Jahren forged with a brilliant, wounded man named Bill, who becomes her lab partner and best friend. Their sometimes rogue adventures in science take them from the Midwest across the United States and back again, over the Atlantic to the ever-light skies of the North Pole and to tropical Hawaii, where she and her lab currently make their home.
Jahren's probing look at plants, her astonishing tenacity of spirit, and her acute insights on nature enliven every page of this extraordinary book. "Lab Girl" opens your eyes to the beautiful, sophisticated mechanisms within every leaf, blade of grass, and flower petal. Here is an eloquent demonstration of what can happen when you find the stamina, passion, and sense of sacrifice needed to make a life out of what you truly love, as you discover along the way the person you were meant to be.

About the Author


HOPE JAHRENhas received three Fulbright Awards in geobiology and is one of four scientists, and the only woman, to have been awarded both of the Young Investigator Medals given in the earth sciences. Named by "Popular Science "in 2005 as one of the Brilliant 10 young scientists, she has taught and pursued independent research at universities around the country, most recently as a tenured professor at the University of Hawai i at M noa in Honolulu.

hopejahrensurecanwrite.com

jahrenlab.com"


Product Details
ISBN: 9781410490780
ISBN-10: 1410490785
Large Print: Yes
Publisher: Thorndike Press
Publication Date: July 6th, 2016
Pages: 505
Language: English