Instaread Summary of Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
Three out of five stars
Autobiographies of scientists can be entertaining and informative, but they often are of little interest to the non-scientific population. Jahren is female, so some of her experiences in what was still a sexist world have a greater human interest component than if she were male. She also suffers from bipolar disorder, which increases her difficulties as she navigates her way through the often harsh scientific environment.
This summary does not give the general non-scientific reader any powerful incentive to read the book and most that have worked their way to a doctorate in the sciences will recognize many aspects of their lives. Getting a doctorate in a hard science field is very difficult and stories of starving graduate students are common. I earned majors in biology and chemistry and my professors often talked about their experiences, regularly going without sleep and food. To them, Jahren’s struggles are just part of the process.
Jahren’s difficulty in obtaining funding is also same song different verse to people in the scientific community. While the stars are generally able to obtain sufficient grants, others constantly find themselves on the financial edge.
Jahren is a very accomplished plant biologist and the book generally concentrates on the years 1997 to 2008, when she went from her first appointment as a professor to an acclaimed scientist. It is a story of achievement, but there is little in the summary that explains what those achievements were. The summary was written for the non-scientist, specifically as a case history motivator for young females.
This book was made available for free for review purposes.