Thursday, September 28, 2006

Science Fiction by Scientists: Joan Slonczewski

I would be remiss if I didn't devote a post to Kenyon College Professor Joan L. Slonczewski. Slonczewski and her students study how bacteria can live under extreme acidic or basic conditions. She also supervises the Microbe Wiki, where you can learn all about bacteria and viruses. Those achievements aren't why she is relevant to this blog, however.

Professor Slonczewski also writes science fiction novels (including Brain Plague and A Door Into Ocean) and essays on science, especially biology, and gender in science fiction. Best of all, she teaches BIOL 103: Biology in Science Fiction. Now this is a course I would have (figuratively) killed for as an undergraduate. It would have been awesome to read Dune and The Time Machine and watch Star Trek and X-Files for science class. This method of teaching works; the projects created by her students are often interesting and thought-provoking.

It's clear that science doesn't have to be exclusively taught from text books.

More about Slonczeski and the Biology in Science Fiction course:
Interview with Slonczewski in the journal Nature (pdf).
Article in the HHMI Bulletin (The course receives funding from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.) (pdf)

A sampling of Slonczewski's essays:
The Future Biology of Sex: Science Fiction Perspectives
Genomics and Humanity: Science Fiction Perspectives
Science in Science Fiction: Making it Work
• Read more essays by Slonczewski on Dave Switzer's fan site

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  1. Wow, this post did have a lot of useful links for me. You know, I am J. Slonczewski's Hungarian translator, (I translated The Children Star and I'm working on A Door Into Ocean at the moment) and it's always good to find additional info to help me understand her ideas better.
    Kollárik Péter (Chelloveck)

  2. That's really cool that Slonczewski's novels are being translated. I'm glad you found the post useful!

  3. A Door Into Ocean in Hungarian language has at last arrived in the Hungarian bookstores!


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