The Moms that Made Us


Interviews with our moms

In honor of Mother’s Day, a handful of us at SciAll interviewed our moms (and one grandma!) to talk about our careers, science, and how we all got to where we are today. Highly recommend watching the video above to get the full effect of the giggles and heartwarming moments 🙂

So, what did they have to say?

So, what do our moms think our professional scientists do?

Dr. Kat Beheshti’s Mom (Estuarine Ecologist):
You study Eel Grass in waterways. Well, right now you’re not doing that. You’re working for the state on their projects.

Dr. Mike Gil’s Mom (Marine Biologist):
You study coral reefs, and fish, and the communication between them. That’s your main thing. You go all around the world doing different experiments that you have come up with yourself. You study the relationship that they have in their communities, and how they’re very much like us in a way. The social network of fish.

Dr. Kelly Speer’s Mom (Mammologist & Parasitologist):
I think that you’ve combined zoology and parasitology in some kind of cool way, and we should be looking at parasites and not just their hosts. So, the way you do this is you go out into jungly areas, or under bridges and hang out with the trolls (😂), and inside caves at night. You have the night shift. You set up a thing called the mist net and you catch bats and other stuff sometimes. Then, you pick those bats out and blow on their fur so you can pick out the parasites and stick them in little vials. Maybe whir them around in a centrifuge and see what comes out of them. Then you decide if they’re carriers of something we don’t want.

Dr. Jennan Kharbush’s Mom & Grandma (Chemical Oceanographer / Organic Geochemist):
Mom: You have the career and life that I should have had! I didn’t go into a science field, but I keep up as an interest by reading (and making all the kids read) science news and Discover Magazine. Since I liked to garden I made you guys do experiments where you tried out different fertilizers and light.

How would our scientists describe what their moms do?

Kat’s mom is an interior designer and artist. She’s a creative person that paints, makes jewelry, and designs homes. As her mom says, she “makes ordinary things look better.”

Mike’s mom was an office manager for United Airlines. She was like a central administrative person, and a lot of what she did was organize trainings for agents who do the booking and organizing for travel itineraries.

Kelly’s mom is an Adapted P.E. Teacher. She helps build skills for students who can’t build those skills in a typical physical education setting because the typical setting isn’t made for students with certain disabilities.

So, what do our professional scientists have anything in common?

Yes! In fact, Kat and her mom agree that they are both creative. Her mom channels it into a professional space, but Kat definitely has an artistic side as well.

As for an interest in science though, Kat’s mom mostly had an interest in that she enjoyed playing with frogs and collecting tadpoles (a.k.a. pollywogs) when she was younger. She used to collect them by the 605 freeway and then there would be frogs everywhere, which as kids they loved. There were thousands of them jumping all over the place! Sadly, once they put the freeway in that ended…

Mike and his mom both love to travel! They both very much have the travel bug. Mike also appreciates that his mom is very good at having FUN! That, plus her priority on keeping her friends close has made a huge impact on Mike’s professional life. He gets to meet people that are kindred spirits about the science and stuff he cares most about, and so he makes fast friends. Mom agrees, family and friends are 2 of the most important things in life!

As for science, she mostly had an interest in bird watching when she was younger. She was really into nature, and has been able to get back to that lately. But in high school, she hated science! It was boring, she didn’t realize what it all was at the time, and the teachers weren’t the greatest.

Jennan’s grandmother, didn’t have time to be interested in science. Growing up in the 30’s and 40’s all she knew was she wanted to get off the farm. Anything off the farm was “science” to her.
Jennan’s mom first remembers being interested in science in the 5th grade when the teacher dissected cows eyes (which they thought was incredibly gross!). But, it was also really interesting. Before that, her interest was mostly in bugs, butterflies, ants and animals. Her grandfather had a bug collection from when he was in college.

From the Moms & Grandma’s perspective, how has science and the discussions about science changed?

For Kat’s mom, she always thought it was important growing up. Science was always talked about with respect. Her father was a scientists and pathologist, so she always respected science. Unfortunately, she thinks the perception of science goes in waves. But, now there’s no way to go with the wave going down. It has to go up because we don’t have a chance to redo this. So, it has to be taken seriously.

Along the same lines, misinformation makes her very sad. That people would not trust scientists when they’ve devoted their entire lives to it is discouraging. She believes science is one of the most important things in our world, and it should be respected. It should be high on everyone’s list.

Mike’s mom realizes technology alone is pretty insane. It blows her mind that so much stuff can fit on one little chip. She’s seen so many changes that it’s crazy when she thinks back to how it was. It’s hard to imagine what it will be like in the future! She’s learned that science is everything, really. Mike helped her realize that. Her lip-gloss even, has a formula made through science. It’s a very big part of our lives and too many don’t get that. AND, scientists (especially her son!) don’t get paid for it like they should! 😊

When Kelly’s mom was young, science was more describing things when learning science in class. However, when you throw in the pop culture component of the question she thinks that of course technology has made information so accessible. It has made made the world a smaller marble so that we can interact with each other more. But, we have to be careful to help students who are coming through school be think more critically about the information they’re getting. Information is at their fingertips but it’s important to be able to be discerning about whether or not it’s valid and reliable information.

Some of the most life changing science in Jennan’s grandmother’s lifetime? The birth control pill and penicillin! Also, when she was in school working in the labs the big coming thing was the electron microscope.

For her mom, the thing that changed the most seems to be the discovery of DNA and how it works. When she was in high school they were just learning that it was a thing.

Final thoughts from the loving mothers?

Mike’s mom, is very happy he’s found what he loves! She’s so proud of him. She’s always beaming about him and thinks it’s amazing all that he’s done! She wants him to keep it up, and move closer!

Kelly’s mom conquers, she’s so proud of Kelly and thinks she should be proud of herself!

Fun fact from Kat’s mom – when Kat was young her mom thought she was going to be a Las Vegas dancer! Kat loved sparkly stuff, and still kind of wishes she was a Rockette… Now, when her mom sees her in the mud it makes her laugh.

Jennan’s family is excited about the 4th generation coming soon!! TBD on if Dr. Baby is going to want to be a scientist.

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