Saran Toure On Interning At The American Museum of Natural History

“I get to inspire them to think deeper and encourage them to deepen their interests. Those people are the reason I show up at the museum every weekend.”

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Interview by Alex Hanson
Photo: Saran working at the museum. Courtesy of Saran Toure.
One of my favorite place in New York City is the Milstein Hall of Ocean Life at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). Naturally, I find myself there often, and on one of my most recent visits I met Saran Toure, a high school student and Saltz Intern at AMNH. Saran was posted at the upper level of the Hall of Ocean Life, at a cart fitted with tanks of plankton, dishes, and magnifying glasses. She was answering questions from museum visitors as well as facilitating plankton observation and dishing out amazing facts about the tiny sea creatures, including the fact that jellyfish are a type of plankton! I was struck by Saran’s impressive ability to share her knowledge in a fun and engaging way, so I caught up with her in an email interview in December to ask her about her amazing internship and her goals for the future.

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Nancy Drew and the Secret to Keeping It Fresh

Long before I knew what a feminist was, when I was a mere indoorsy only child with a library card and a beige Windows 98 desktop, I was already a fan of Nancy Drew.

By Ariana DiValentino

Gif by Alex Hanson

Long before I knew what a feminist was, when I was a mere indoorsy only child with a library card and a beige Windows 98 desktop, I was already a fan of Nancy Drew.

Wishing to combine my affinity for the mystery novels with my already fully-fledged attachment to the computer, I remember telling my grandmother (also a Nancy Drew fan from her childhood) that I wished there were Nancy Drew PC games. And like a grandmotherly miracle worker, sure enough, she procured one for my 7th birthday.

I was instantly hooked, and so was the rest of my family. It took several of us to get through that first game— Stay Tuned for Danger, about a soap opera star who has been receiving death threats. But I flew through every other game in the series, and 15 years later, I’m still looking forward to diving into the next game over a long weekend.

What I immediately loved about the games, which are made by an independent gaming studio in Bellevue, Washington called Her Interactive, was that they were far richer both in game environment and in story than any other roleplay game I had played as a child. My cousins and I had come up on, primarily, Barbie games, but Barbie Detective and Barbie Spy were no match for the complex mysteries and puzzles put before Nancy Drew. They were exciting and intriguing, with more focus on writing and art than any game I’d played before (keeping in mind that this was 2002). Gameplay relied more on following actual leads and solving layered puzzles than fast reflexes or finding random items with the assumption that you’ll find a use for them later, like most PC mystery games up to this point. Continue reading “Nancy Drew and the Secret to Keeping It Fresh”

CoderGals: An Origin Story

One of the girls asked, “What if you LOVE to code?” and every girl still raised her hand.

By Rachel Auslander

Collage by Alex Hanson featuring an image courtesy of CoderGals

When I was in 6th grade, my mom found a drag-and-drop coding program called Alice. I started using it because it seemed fun. I was obsessed with iMovie at the time, so using code to make little animations with animals appealed to me. I played around with it for a few months, then I forgot about it. Two years later, I discovered Codecademy. I started to learn how to make a website, which was so cool. It was amazing to be able to create something that could be immediately available for anyone to see. However, I had the same problems during both of these experiences. I knew boys involved in robotics, but none of my female friends were interested in coding. I also didn’t have a role model or a mentor.

The root cause of this is visibility. Exceptional women in STEM exist. They’re not unicorns. They’re just rarely highlighted by mainstream media. When I was younger, I loved J.K. Rowling because I loved the Harry Potter series— I even dressed up as her for a historical figure fair. I had never heard of what I consider real wizardry, coding, in any books. I also looked up to Emma Watson and Miley Cyrus because those were the role models promoted to me. The icons that girls are presented with are generally celebrities, musicians, or actresses— not scientists or successful businesswomen. The funny thing is that these are all creators, but we are told to look up to creators of content rather than creators of innovations. This isn’t inherently bad, but if girls don’t have STEM role models to look up to, how will they become involved? It’s hard to be what you can’t see. Continue reading “CoderGals: An Origin Story”

Fearless Pioneers: An Interview with Rachel Ignotofsky

My passion for learning about biology and the mechanics of how the world works did not leave me when I decided to go to art school.

by Adriana Ortiz

All art courtesy of Rachel Ignotofsky’s website

Rachel Ignotofsky is an illustrator and author hailing from Kansas City, Missouri. She works as a freelance designer nowadays, but has previously worked at the iconic Hallmark card company and wonderfully dispels any dreariness that (500) Days of Summer may have implied about it. Rachel is passionate about science and history and communicating all of it toward a wider audience to inspire learning in others. Her work takes complex information and makes it accessible and fun, and does it all with an adorably appealing aesthetic. She covers topics ranging from marine animals to bodily organs and basically any interesting idea imaginable. I am a huge fan that is IN LOVE with her Instagram account, as it brings so much joy and knowledge to my feed. I totally recommend giving it a follow if you love cute things combined with science!

Rachel has recently written and published a book called Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World which showcases various women in science throughout history. She tells the often under-recognized, yet super-inspiring stories of incredibly intelligent and accomplished women in STEM, each accompanied by her illustrations. It comes out July 26 of this year!

I am so glad to have interviewed Rachel about her new book and everything behind it, so read on to learn more about this STEAM queen and everything she loves. Continue reading “Fearless Pioneers: An Interview with Rachel Ignotofsky”

Lemonade, Paprika, and Virtual Reality: An Interview with Priscilla Wong

I spoke with DreamWorks Animation visual development artist Priscilla Wong about the role of technology in her work, her predictions for virtual reality’s role in her field, independent distribution, and being a woman a creative field.

Interview by Alex Hanson

All art courtesy of Priscilla Wong

Priscilla Wong is a visual development artist for DreamWorks Animation. She is a master of transcending mediums, from digital art to painting to creating fantasy creatures made of cloth and other textured materials. I spoke with her about the role of technology in her work, her predictions for virtual reality’s role in her field, independent distribution, and being a woman a creative field. All the art featured is courtesy of Priscilla, and you can find more of her work on her blog, her Tumblr, and her Instagram. You’ll also find her visual influence on the Trolls movie, set to release this November.

How would you describe your artistic style?

It’s like lemonade with a dash of paprika. I like using real materials, like fabric, and unconventional materials. I think part of that comes from my love for fashion. I love Project Runway. I like different disciplines within art and design: I love graphic design, I’m in animation, I love fashion and industrial design. I try to bring as much of those influences together as possible because I think it makes a unique look and makes it universally appealing. It has a sophisticated mix to it, I feel. What I mean by lemonade with a dash of paprika is that I like things to be fresh but also a little dramatic, a little spicy. I got that from loving Diana Vreeland. She’s a fashion icon and she liked to challenge norms. She pushed aesthetics along from the 20s to the 60s. So much happened during that time and I think a lot of that has to do with her.

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For the Q Pop Shop Gallery

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Interview With Mandy Sweeney: NASA Alum and Certified Sci-Fi Geek

“The people that can work at the intersection between the sciences and the humanities will own the future.”

By Julia Arciga

Photo courtesy of Mandy Sweeney

Mandy Sweeney is the Vice President of Museum Operations at the up-and-coming Museum of Science Fiction, a NASA alum, and is currently finishing up her Harvard Master’s degree in Finance. To add to her already impressive resume, Mandy also boasts an impressive warchest of sci-fi fan info, and has an enormous passion for STEM education. Though a Skype interview, I got the pleasure of geeking out with her— Star-Trek-and-Doctor-Who style.

What was the inspiration to start the Museum of Science Fiction?

The founder of the Museum, Greg Viggiano, was inspired by the Tate Modern. It occured to him that there really was no home like that for science fiction. The genre is so broad – there’s radio, music, art, literature, film, TV, comics, cosplay, fandom – and he wondered why this hasn’t been all brought together yet. At the time I was working at NASA, he and I were talking about that and I, too, was really intrigued with this idea. Between the two of us, we realized that sci-fi is a really powerful way to engage everyone about science and makes it more accessible. So what we came to believe is that we can use sci-fi as a way to inspire and motivate others to develop positive thoughts about our future by innovating and by creating more technology. Continue reading “Interview With Mandy Sweeney: NASA Alum and Certified Sci-Fi Geek”

Astrophysics, Fashion, and DJ Carly Sagan: An Interview with Emily Rice

People get worried about being on this direct path, especially for something that’s perceived as competitive, like science or academia, but really there’s a lot of people that took a more winding path or forged their own way.

Interview by Alex Hanson

Emily Rice is an astrophysicist, assistant professor at City University of New York, research associate at the American Museum of Natural History, co-founder at the astronomy-meets-fashion blog STARtorialist, host of Astronomy on Tap in New York City, parody video creator, and overall kickass lady. She is a master of combining the expressive and the scientific, and her projects contribute to a sense of community within astronomy, as well as showing the general public that science can be fun and creative. I got to interview Emily over Google Hangout about her work, STARtorialist, and her DJ alter ego. Continue reading “Astrophysics, Fashion, and DJ Carly Sagan: An Interview with Emily Rice”