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This week we have an unique opportunity to find out about what scientists do. DNLee at Urban Science Adventures stopped by to let us know about the Diversity in Science Carnival. Diversity in Science #1: Black History Month Celebration is up and it’s a wonderful opportunity to meet scientists past and present.

Note:  Keep in mind that these posts were not necessarily written for children.

And if you are interested in an outstanding post about DNLee and how she got her start in science, visit Nurturing a Scientific Mind.


What do you think of when you hear the word "scientist?" The classic visual of a person in a white lab coat peering into a glass tube filled with colorful liquid? Someone tucked in a laboratory somewhere, far from the real world?

Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. I think it would be helpful for children to choose a career in science if they knew what scientists really do and what they really are like. To help children learn more about scientists I'm considering having a "Meet a Scientist Monday" as a regular post. Let me know if you like the idea and even better, if you know of a scientist who would be willing to let me interview him or her.

Here's an example of a scientist, using information from Dr. Thomas Eisner's book, "For Love of Insects" and from his website (go visit it just to see his photographs and his FanciFul Designs).

1. What is Dr. Eisner's scientific field?

Dr. Eisner is a chemical ecologist. That means he studies how insects and other arthropods communicate and defend themselves using chemicals.

2. Does he spend all his time in a laboratory?

No, Dr. Eisner does much of his work outside in natural areas. In fact, he calls himself a field biologist. Dr. Eisner is also a nature photographer, as you can see from his website.

3. Did he always want to be a chemical ecologist?

Dr. Eisner always liked insects, and his father was a chemist, but he didn't become a chemical ecologist until after he got his PhD degree. He says he had the idea in his mind that he would like to study chemicals and insects, but it wasn't until he found a special beetle called a bombardier beetle that he was actually able to do it.

4. Where does he work?

Dr. Eisner is a Professor at Cornell University.

5. Why do you call him Dr. Eisner? Is he a medical doctor?

Many scientists go to graduate school for a a degree called a doctorate of philosophy or PhD for short. Anyone who gets a doctorate is called Dr.

6. Does he wear a laboratory coat?

I met him when I went to school at Cornell and he just wore regular clothes.

Do you have any other questions about Dr. Eisner? If so, let me know.

Here is information on two books by Dr. Eisner written for interested adults:

For Love of Insects by Thomas Eisner

Secret Weapons: Defenses of Insects, Spiders, Scorpions, and Other Many-Legged Creatures
by Thomas Eisner, Maria Eisner, and Melody Siegler

In the most recent issue of Muse magazine (September 2008) is a moving story about the scientist/artist Anne Adams. She was a Canadian scientist who gave up her career to become an artist. In a sad twist of fate, her newborn interest and incredible ability in art was probably due, at least in part, to a rare brain disorder.

I was able to find a link to a project she did with her husband, called “An ABC Book of Invertebrates.” Anne did the illustrations and her husband, Robert Adams, composed the text. The illustrations are like looking through a kaleidoscope, with colorful, repeating patterns. The earthworm image is amazing (click on E ).  Too bad some of the scans are not completely clear. I’m sure children that are interested in unusual creepy crawlies will still enjoy it.

To read more about Anne Adams story and the brain disease she suffered from, check this article about how one of her paintings entitled “Bolero” came to be.