Get to know the SN 10

This exercise is a part of Educator Guide: The SN 10: Scientists to Watch / View Guide

Directions for teachers: Choose an SN 10 scientist whose work relates to your class. Have students read about the scientist and then ask them to answer the following questions. Sample answers for one scientist, Emily Fischer, are provided below.    

1. What scientist did you read about? What type of scientist are they and where do they work?

I read about Emily Fischer. She is an atmospheric chemist at Colorado State University.

2. What does the scientist study?

Fischer studies the chemistry of air pollution. She is attempting to figure out where air pollution originates and how its chemistry changes as it moves through the air.

3. What inspired or motivated the scientist to pursue their research? Explain.

Fischer has always been interested in air pollution and describes herself as an air pollution detective. Part of her motivation to research air pollution comes from the fact that people have little to no control over whether they are exposed to air pollution, which raises the risk for certain health issues including heart disease, asthma, diabetes and obesity.

4. What research question is the scientist currently working on?

Fischer and her colleagues are trying to figure out the ingredients in wildfire smoke that could harm health. Though wildfire smoke can be a major source of air pollution, its composition is still relatively mysterious.

5. What initial findings has the scientist reported?

Fischer’s team found that formaldehyde and hydrogen cyanide are abundant in wildfire smoke. Those chemicals are linked to cancer and other health problems.

6. Does the scientist’s research impact people’s everyday lives? Why or why not?

This year’s intense fire season in the American West underscores how vulnerable people are to air pollution from wildfires, and who is most vulnerable. Fischer’s research can help figure out how best to prepare and protect the people in these communities.

7. What did you learn about the scientist’s passions or interests outside of their core area of research? Why do you think these details were included?

One of Fischer’s goals is to bring more undergraduate women, especially women of color, into the geosciences. To figure out the most effective way to do this, she along with a team of social scientists and geoscientists studied how various interventions, including having a female role model that looks like them, can help. This detail gives a fuller picture of Fischer as a person, what she cares about and what is important to her.

Bonus question

Note that students will have to read about an additional SN 10 scientist to answer this question. Encourage students to choose a scientist that interests them.

8. Does the scientist have something in common with another SN 10 scientist? Explain.

Fischer shares a passion for mentoring women in STEM fields with astrophysicist Tonima Tasnim Ananna. Fischer’s mentorship program, PROGRESS, focuses on undergraduate women in geosciences. Ananna’s program, Wi-STEM, helps female high school and college students in Bangladesh pursue science.