Issue Date: November 6, 2017
Bullied bug lover gets support; son champions dad’s chemistry
Eight-year-old Sophia Spencer of Ontario is a spunky kid who loves bugs. “Bugs are cool. They have their own features, and they’re so colorful,” Sophia tells Newscripts. But her adoration for creepy crawlies often drew teases and taunts from her classmates.
That really bugged Sophia’s mom, Nicole Spencer, who couldn’t bear to watch others stifle her daughter’s passion for science, so she took matters into her own hands. She approached the Entomological Society of Canada for help connecting Sophia with an entomologist who could be her pen pal and answer her questions about bugs. Nicole, who is a law clerk, feels strongly that more girls should be in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—the STEM fields: “I want Sophia to know she can do anything she wants to do.” At the Entomological Society, Morgan Jackson, a social media volunteer and a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Guelph, drafted this tweet on Aug. 25, 2016: “A young girl who loves insects is being bullied & needs our support. DM [direct message] your email & we’ll connect you! #BugsR4Girls.” The tweet and hashtag went viral, and hundreds of responses from scientists around the country swarmed in. Because of the attention the tweet got, Jackson was invited to write a paper on the experience in the Annals of the Entomological Society of America, and he asked Sophia to be his coauthor on the paper, which was published in September (DOI: 10.1093/aesa/sax055). Sophia and Jackson met up in summer 2016 and collected bugs together. Jackson, who continues to be Sophia’s pen pal, says social media has made it easier for scientists “to make themselves and their research accessible to anyone with an interest in what they do.” “I’m so happy I know so many scientists right now; it’s amazing,” Sophia says. Her classmates who used to tease her are impressed with her newfound celebrity, and they’ve had a change of heart about bugs. “They think bugs are cool,” Sophia says.
Frank David of Milton, Mass., recently posted the following tweet:
“My 80yo dad just self-pub’d an educ. paper on van der Waals isotherms, because that’s what ‘retired’ chemists do: digitalcommons.uconn.edu/chem_educ/96/.” What attracted the Newscripts gang to this story wasn’t that an 80-year-old is still publishing papers—that’s not so novel; it’s how proud Frank is of his chemist dad. Growing up, Frank says his father, retired University of Connecticut chemistry professor Carl David, would leave scraps of paper with his chemistry notes all over the house, and when Frank’s friends would visit, his father would seize on the opportunity to give them a chemistry lecture. Carl tells Newscripts that his passion is in education and that whenever he learns something new, he wants to share it. He adds, “I’ll stop publishing when I stop learning.”
Linda Wang wrote this week’s column. Please send comments and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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