“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” ― Plutarch
My old Kentucky home
I was born and raised in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, about 50 miles south of Louisville. Not to be cliché, but my elementary and high school teachers truly ignited my passion for science. The fire was kindled by my 5th grade teacher, Lucinda Wells, who admired NASA and encouraged us to explore our world. She always had us watch the Space Shuttle launch if it occurred during class time and would use those moments to tell us about the awesome science and engineering done by NASA. I showed particular interest in the doings of NASA, and so she would bring me all sorts of stuff ― information sheets, booklets, and cool space pictures ― from NASA-sponsored events for teachers. During high school, I decided to take Advanced Biology for one of my electives, which ended up being my favorite, and the best, course that I took during high school. The teacher, the late Elbert Watts, introduced me to evolution. He wove evolution into every topic, it was eye opening and I'll never forget his enthusiasm. Worrisome to think about now, but if he had not done so, I would not have been introduced to evolution until college!
A pale blue dot
I entered college as an engineering major and a ROTC cadet, first Army and then Air Force. I wanted to be a test pilot and an astronaut (I still do!). Having fond memories of my Advanced Biology course in high school, I decided on a whim to take the first biology course required for Biology majors instead of the one for non-majors. The course was Cell and Molecular Biology, and I was hooked! Around this time, my parents gave me Carl Sagan's book, “Pale Blue Dot” for my birthday. I read it over a weekend... and then read it again. This book, and his other books, had a huge impact on me, leading me to change my major to Biology and leave the ROTC program to pursue a career in science. My interest in microbes grew out of a microbiology course taught by Ronald Atlas, and thus became this microbial life of mine. I still love flying and will eventually complete my private pilot's certificate (“license”), and would still jump at the chance to become an astronaut, but science, and in particular, microbes, have become my professional passion.