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Lab Girl.

October 2, 2018


Have you ever had that feeling of reading something that someone else has written and find a little bit of yourself in those words, sentences and pages?  I’ve always been a lab girl, always. This book has helped me to view that reality from a different perspective and put it into my own words. I thought I might share that with you.

A lab girl isn’t made in a lab, isn’t the sum of her qualifications or awards, no, a lab girl is born.

I was born curious, energetic to the point of being hard-to-handle, wondering and with an imagination that could conjure up a thousand questions and directions out of one starting point – rather like branches and leaves off a tree.  Not that this way of thinking and being was always a blessing/ positive attribute of course.  I could be as wild and out-of-control as a hungry wolf or as studious, deep and focused as a hawk but what I couldn’t be was uninterested. Still can’t. Never.

I funnelled my curiosity into the natural world, in the woodland near to my home, the tiny pond in the corner of our tiny garden, into the frog spawn that my uncle would deliver most springtime, the leaves that I’d crunch on my weekend dog walks and the hours that I’d spend trying to memorise the name and purpose of every bone, muscle and blood vessel listed in my pop-up ‘Human Body’ book.  I didn’t know how to be anything other than fascinated by stuff and I didn’t need any motivation to be so.  There were no prizes, goals or financial rewards propelling me forward, no, just a deep and insatiable appetite for understanding why.

I’m still like that only now my ‘why’s’ have had to become more disciplined thanks to the financial realities of adulthood which include mortgages, school fees and business tax.  That said, I do still find myself falling into rabbit holes of intrigue from time to time, rabbit holes that lead me off the beaten (and budgeted for) track  of a project and into the as-yet-unknown realms of creative discovery and innovation. Sometimes customers even appreciate it 😉

Anyway, I just wanted to share the joy that I found seeing my way of being in the world played back through another’s eyes. It makes me feel a little less odd and obsessive in my desire to explore.  It also helps me to formulate an answer to the retort ‘well, of course, I’m not a chemist like you’ that some clients throw my way when I attempt to answer their challenging technical question in bite sized chunks, trying to make it relatable and palatable but still, occasionally missing the mark.   ‘No you are not’ I’ll say, ‘But chemists are not ‘made’ or churned out of university only when they have their qualification papers, chemists, like all scientists are born.

I’d like to say that the similarities between Hope Jahren’s achievements and mine just keep going on and on but the truth of the matter is that she wins that one. Her science obsession game was (and still is) way deeper and narrower than mine and she’s got the qualifications and lab to justify that. I, on the other hand, will continue to juggle my passion for all things on a shallower ‘cosmetic’ level, only delving down those rabbit holes when I think I can get away with it.

Amanda x



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