Career share and compare

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

Have your students work with a partner to choose two articles about SN 10 scientists. They can pick articles from the October 12, 2019 & October 26, 2019 issue of Science News or use the Science News archive to find more choices. Students should decide who is reading which article and spend about 10 minutes reading the article thoroughly. Students will then share what they’ve learned with their partner so both have a strong understanding of the two scientists. Students will then answer the following comparison questions together.

Note to teachers: Possible answers are given for the articles about Michelle O’Malley, “The next green chemistry champs” (Readability: 12.9) and Malin Pinsky, “Understanding an ocean of changes” (Readability: 11.1). But questions can be used for any pair of SN 10 articles.

1. Do you think the two scientists could collaborate on a shared research topic or goal? How might their work connect?

Students should think about topics and techniques that are part of both scientists’ research and discuss where there might be overlap. Students might suggest collaborating on a topic that is consistent with the research covered in the articles or suggest a new research question that aligns with both scientists’ interests and skillsets.

Students might say that O’Malley and Pinsky could collaborate on research that informs new energy policies as a way to mitigate climate change and its effects. O’Malley’s goal of finding greener sources of energy and Pinsky’s data-driven approach to understanding the effects of climate change could meet to help shape these policies.  

2. Describe what you know about each of your scientists’ life paths. What experiences have helped each to become a successful science researcher? Do the two scientists share any experiences? Using the scientists’ education, life and career experiences as a springboard, outline one possible path to success as a scientist.

Students should discuss and outline the path that each scientist took to becoming a researcher, and the factors and experiences that influenced the scientist’s progress. Students may then decide to use experiences from one or both scientists in the response.

Students might highlight O’Malley’s strategy of reaching out to scientists doing research in her field of interest as a good way to connect and learn. Or students might point to Pinsky’s jobs as a research technician and an intern as valuable experiences to have before pursuing a graduate degree. Students’ possible path might be: 1) Go to college. 2) Expose yourself to research experiences as an intern. 3) Reach out to learn from current successful researchers in your area of interest. 4) Apply that knowledge to your own, unique research question that could make a meaningful impact on the world.

3. Compare the types of data discussed in each article and how the data were analyzed. Explain how data collection is key to achieving a goal in science research. Describe how a scientist determines what types of data to collect and analyze.

Students should compare examples of data collection and analysis from the two articles. Students should think about how the scientists had to decide what data to collect, how the scientists collected that data and how analyzing the data helped to determine the research outcome.

O’Malley collects animal poop and looks for anaerobic fungi. She then grows the fungi to analyze what enzymes the fungi possess and collects data on how those enzymes break down plant material. Pinsky collects data on clown fish and other marine populations. His data include population size and behaviors. Pinsky is analyzing that data to look for what factors might affect a population and how those factors might relate to climate change.

The scientists’ research goals inform their data collection and analysis process. For example, O’Malley’s goal is to re-create a method of breaking down plant material that exists in nature in the lab so that it can be used for green fuels and other chemicals. To achieve this, she collects data in the field and does tests to determine how to replicate a natural method. Pinsky’s goal is to create a holistic picture of marine ecosystems to understand why oceans are changing and how those changes should inform related policy. He also collects data in the field and then puts it in context with existing data to answer his big-picture questions. To determine the types of data to collect and analyze, scientists need to work backward from their research goal, determine a testable research question and identify the information that is both possible to collect and could help answer that question.

4. Think about how the author of each article approached their topic. What factors might have affected what the author chose to include and what he or she chose to leave out? How would you go about writing a career profile of someone who’s found success in science? Who would your audience be? What would be your goal? What aspects would you include and how much would you emphasize each?

Students should discuss how the journalists covered each scientist personally and professionally, and whether the approach and emphasis was effective. Students should think about the intended audience of the article and whether the author’s background, including knowledge and own life experiences, could have affected the way he or she wrote the profile.

Some students might prefer to read about a scientist’s passion and drive to achieve his or her goals, and would focus the profile on someone’s personality. Other students might be interested in how professionals get started in their industry and so might include more background information on early experiences. Students who are naturally interested in the field that their scientist studies might be inclined to write a more detailed description of the scientist’s research.

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