IMAGE COURTESY: DR. THEANNE GRIFFITH.
In 2017, Theanne Griffith was on maternity leave from her role as a postdoctoral neuroscientist at Columbia University.
Between late-night feedings and settling into parenthood, she was inspired to combine her love of science and books. She began her journey as an author while on leave with her first daughter and started actively writing children’s books the following year.
While on leave with her second daughter, Dr. Griffith finalized “The Magnificent Makers” series — stories aimed at exposing kids to science that feature protagonists Violet and Pablo, children from under-represented backgrounds. While embarking on exciting adventures, Violet and Pablo also learn important lessons about acceptance, teamwork, and managing failure.
Now a mother to two girls, aged 2 and 3.5 years, Dr. Griffith continues to balance her work as an author and as a researcher, having recently opened her own lab in the Department of Physiology and Membrane Biology at the University of California Davis, where her interests focus on how the mammalian nervous system encodes and transmits thermal sensations in both health and disease.
Dr. Griffith was kind enough to take the time to talk with We Rep STEM about her books and the importance of representation in STEM. Read on to learn more about the author behind The Magnificent Makers series, in her own words.
What was the inspiration behind The Magnificent Makers series?
I’ve always had a passion for both science and storytelling. Unfortunately, as a young Black girl growing up in the 90s, I didn’t see many scientists or science-loving fictional characters who looked like me. With ‘The Magnificent Makers’, I wanted to combine my two passions in an action-packed series that got kids excited about science, while also featuring a diverse cast of protagonists.
Have you always wanted to be an author?
In a strange way, yes. I’ve wanted to be a scientist since high school. But I also have a vivid memory of being asked as a teenager what my biggest dream was. I replied something to the effect of, “I want to write a book that gets featured in Oprah’s Book Club.” I’ve always loved reading, and I always wanted to contribute to the world of literature. I didn’t really have the time or the know-how, however, to pursue that pathway until more recently.
What can kids (and parents) learn from the books?
All about science! Each book covers a science topic that ranges from ecosystems to the brain. Each book also comes with two hands-on activities for kids and parents to do together at home. In addition to the science, the books weave in a life lesson, whether it be learning to manage emotions or the importance of teamwork. Most importantly though, I hope those who read these books have fun and get lost in a magical, science-filled world.
Can you talk a bit about some of the feedback you’ve received from readers?
The feedback has perhaps been the best part. I’ve received so many messages from parents and kids telling me how much they enjoy the books, that they appreciate how the science is woven into the story such that kids are learning without even realizing it. I’ve also had parents thank me for highlighting characters that look like their children. Messages like those reaffirm my belief that these books are important.
What message do you have for kids who are interested in pursuing a career in STEM?
The most important thing you need to pursue a career in STEM is creativity. A lot of emphasis is placed on being quantitative and analytical, and while those traits are important for STEM, being a creative thinker is by far the skill that will take you the farthest. Learning how to ask important questions and answer them in innovative ways is what makes most scientists successful. And that requires creativity. Also, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t be good at STEM, not even yourself.
How can people get in touch with you?
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