Botanist Hope Jahren, of the University of Hawaii, wrote this book which is half ode to plants and half memoir. I picked up this book because, as a research scientist myself (pharmacology), I’ve always been fascinated by other female scientists’ life stories. How did they get here? Why? And what drives them forward?
It’s no secret that research science is tough, very tough. As Jahren mentions (many times) the funding of science in the U.S. is often a rocky and uncertain road, one that seems to punish those who choose that career path. Jahren’s path is no different. Forced to move all over the U.S. for a job, never sure that she has funding to support her lab and her partner-in-lab-crime Bill, Jahren fearlessly pursues the career that she finds torture and fascination in equal measure. Her work involves many hats (administrator, grant writer, creative thinker, worker bee, teacher, and financial planner), is often grueling and uncertain, and involves a constant rotation of students, some more dedicated than others.
Jahren alternates between life stories and plant stories, revealing fascinating facts and interesting tidbits into the lives of plants and her own. It isn’t always clear how the two themes intersect, but the common thread is one of perseverance, curiosity, and faith. It probably won’t be of interest to anyone who doesn’t have a deep interest in plant biology and/or research science as a career path, but Jahren’s struggles, some of which are unique to the field but many of which are not, will ring true with many readers.
Amazon link is here.