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  • Writer's pictureSuzie Olsen

Interview with a STEM Author: Michele Knowlton-Thorne

Updated: Dec 11, 2020

STEM Sparkers, join me today in welcoming STEM author Michele Knowlton-Thorne! Michele and I have known each other for a couple of years, where we bonded at a Society of Children's Book Authors and Illustrators conference over our love of STEM. I told her I was an engineer, and she told me she was a molecular biologists, and thus the start of our kinship. And I'm so excited for her! She has written her first STEM inspired book, Picture Day Pandemonium (which I remember reading a draft of and thinking it was so funny and clever) and has launched her first Kickstarter to publish her book! So welcome Michele!

1. I'm so excited that your first STEM book, Picture Day Pandemonium, is launching on Kickstarter! Can you please tell us a bit more about your book and how people can support your Kickstarter?

Of course! I am so excited for the debut of this picture book! When my son was diagnosed with autism, I quit my work in the field of genetics to stay home with him and care for him. In my down time, between therapy appointments and doctor appointments, I started to write this science book series in the hopes of sharing what I know about science, the scientific process, and the thrill of discovery with another generation. I have written poetry since I was young and I wanted these books to have a fun readability element to them, so they are science focused, written in verse, and cover subjects not usually covered in picture books (like static electricity).


2. You also have a background as a biologist. What was your day to day job like as a STEM professional? What did you like about your STEM job?

Yes!!!! I am a scientist. I have an undergraduate degree in Molecular Biosciences and Biotechnology, and a Master of Science degree from Arizona State University. I worked as a geneticist at TGen for 5 years and have been published in peer reviewed journal articles. When I worked at TGen, my lab focused on Whole Genome Analysis studies. We tried to identify genetic markers that caused people to be more susceptible to things like type-2 diabetes.

My graduate student work was also fascinating. I worked with ASU's Astrobiology group, and we studied Earth's longest living relative-- archaebacteria that live in the Hot Springs at Yellowstone National Park. I spent two summers running around these amazing springs and studying how the bacteria that live there handle nutrient limitations. I studied what genes they activate to either gather more of that nutrient or store it.

3. What is a fun or interesting STEM fact you have from your book or future books?

So this book covers static electricity, which is something that children know about and experience often. They encounter it when a balloon is rubbed on their hair and is taken away, and they experience it when they go down a slide and shock a friend afterwards. This book helps them understand how and why that is happening. They will learn about how atoms are composed-- they will learn about protons, electrons, and neutrons. They will learn also about the scientific method, and mostly how to have fun while learning about science.

4. Do you have any advice for children (and adults too) on how to follow your interest and curiosity in STEM?

When I think about the world today, I love how much knowledge is at your fingertips. I love that you can open your phone, or your computer, and find within seconds experiments to do at home. I would encourage everyone to get their children interested in science and the scientific method. What I LOVE about science is that it teaches children to ask questions, to develop methods, and to search for answers. It allows children a safe place to fail, learn, and redesign. It allows children to do what they are already experts at: to explore and to be curious about the world around them. 

Thank you Michele for the excellent words about science! And if you're interested in supporting the Kickstarter campaign for Picture Day Pandemonium, click the here. And as I always say, happy STEM-ing!

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Suzie Olsen
Suzie Olsen
Oct 27, 2020

Danielle, it really is a fun book!


Danielle Hammelef
Danielle Hammelef
Oct 27, 2020

I'm going to enjoy reading this book. I enjoy science topics very much.

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