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DNLee of Urban Science Adventures defended her thesis this month. If you have ever wondered what a PhD thesis defense might be like, she has been writing about her experiences. For example, check out her post and links to videos:

How a dissertation defense (in science) goes down

This is a rare glimpse into the hoops one has to jump through to become a scientist. I applaud her bravery.

Congratulations, Dr. Lee!

Once again our post was inspired by a book, this time about ethologist Dr. Jane Goodall.

Jane Goodall is an extremely interesting scientist to study, because she came to science by a route that was not at all traditional.

Jane Goodall was born in London, England in 1934, which was shortly before the start of World War II. During the war she went to the countryside to stay with her grandmother. Her father went to fight in the war. After the war, her mother and father got a divorce and she stayed in the country where she learned about nature and studied animals. She also read books about far away Africa and dreamed of one day being able to visit.

Once Jane had finished school, she moved back to London and trained to become a secretary. When she had the opportunity to make a trip to Africa, she remembered her early aspirations and jumped at it. She like Africa so much, she got a job as a typist in the city of Nairobi.

By luck Dr, Louis Leakey, the famous anthropologist, and his wife Mary were also in Nairobi at the time. Jane went to meet him, and made a favorable impression. Before long, Jane Goodall was traveling with the Leakeys looking for fossils.

Louis Leakey had the idea that someone should study chimpanzees in the wild, which had never been done before. He thought Jane should give it a try. It turns out, although she had no degree and no formal training in how to study animal behavior, Jane Goodall was a natural. She didn't mind the danger and difficult conditions, and she was soon making remarkable observations.

Eventually she did go back to school to obtain her doctoral degree at Cambridge University. Now she is a world-renowned scientist and leading expert on chimpanzee behavior. This shows what a sense of adventure, willingness to work hard, and a little good timing can bring you.

Dr. Jane Goodall is also an outspoken conservationist. She started Root and Shoots, an organization that encourages people, particularly young people, to help animals and the environment.

I have reviews of related children's books at Wrapped In Foil today.

And if you are interested in chimp behavior as it relates to ants, try this post at Wild About Ants.

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Meet a Scientist Monday Tuesday

Do you ever wonder whether all the science enrichment you do as a parent really matters? Well, parent involvement made a huge difference to Dr. Dale Emeagwali. As a Black, she felt her teachers were not supportive of her interest in math and science when she was growing up in the 1960's. She says she became a scientist because her parents did simple science experiments with her and her two brothers at home. Her father also encouraged their interest in math by showing them tricks with numbers and having math books available. She fully credits her parent's efforts for her success.

Dr. Emeagwali is now a Lecturer in Biology at Morgan State University. She has a PhD from Georgetown University in Microbiology, and was honored with National Technical Association's "1996 Scientist of the Year" award for for her contributions to the fields of microbiology, molecular biology and biochemistry.

In the book Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits the authors agree that "an important value of informal environments for learning science is being accessible to all." Although it covers a lot of topics, one I thought was interesting was that "...in the retrospective studies of what launched female scientists down their career paths. These women often cite particular individuals or contexts outside schools as significant influences on their pursuit of science careers."

Dr. Emeagwali continues to encourage informal science learning for children. For example, while at the University of Minnesota she worked with the Science Museum of Minnesota on the annual African-American Science Day there.

For a particularly moving post about the Black scientists killed in Alabama last week, visit The Black History Month Post I never wanted to write at Urban Science Adventures.

For more information:

Dale Emeagwali Biography at Answers.com

Dale Emeagwali honored as `Scientist of the Year'

Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits is available for reading online for free at: