For the Love of Books: New Book Club Launches out of Philly for Scientists Everywhere
By Kathleen McLaughlin, Ed.D.
July 11, 2023
Science books, and I mean actual non-fiction science books, can be hard to find. When I search for a science book, science fiction usually comes up as one of the top results.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my fiction. The genre is a staple in my book collection and the type of book I will most likely have on hand (never leave home without one!). One of my own personal goals though is to expand my reading into non-fiction, and science non-fiction in particular. To do this, I wondered, how could anyone overcome what sometimes feels like an arduous task after a day of work?
Well, what if we don’t read alone? What if there is a community that meets, perhaps every second Tuesday of the month, online? Well, we’d have a book club for starters. A reliable one, that you can join from anywhere.
My original goal when I started Philly Socializing Scientists (check us out on Meetup.com), was to fill a gap I saw in the Greater Philadelphia Region – to create a community for scientists where socializing is informal. I want to remove the barriers between siloed fields and bring scientists together as the people they are outside of the lab. I want this to be a place for newcomers to the city to find friends and a support network as well. There are festivals to check out, movies to go to, walks to take, board games to be played and much more.
During the initial virtual “this is me” session, where I introduced myself and what I hope to accomplish, something I didn’t see coming happened… people from farther out of the geography (i.e. Mexico) joined the call. It dawned on me then that it might be a good idea to expand to a Virtually Socializing Scientists, where we could have online discussions. You can chat about your research, learn about others’ and connect on a broad range of experience and topics. Formal topic talks are in the works, but that community is where this article is born from.
The book club is a monthly virtual meeting on the second Tuesday of the month, supported by BioBuzz. With their expansion into Greater Philadelphia and their desire to continue to expand the connectivity of the life sciences community beyond media coverage and their (staple) monthly happy hour meetups, it seemed like a no brainer.
Especially since I’ve managed to earn myself a spot as one of their Ambassadors of Buzz (still waiting on BioBuzz swag to proudly show my support!). I truly believe in their vision of fostering community and remain as excited as ever to collaborate on this Book Club to further our collective mission, to build a more connected life science workforce. Providing the life sciences community at large with another way to connect, another way to learn, and, most importantly, build stronger connections jazzes us both.
I invite you to read with us and come ready to share your experience with the book, the things you found interesting, or irksome (it happens). You’ll get to hear about the book from someone else’s perspective, shaped by their knowledge and experience, because as Edmund Wilson said, “No two persons ever read the same book.”
Now, I know that not everyone can join, but this article, Socializing Scientists: Busy Bee Book Club Edition, is the column that will be my personal review of the book selected. Our first book is Gifts of the Crow: How Perception, Emotion, and Thought Allow Smart Birds to Behave Like Humans by John Marzluff and Tony Angell. This book was selected after a discussion about AI and what differentiates humans from others with intellect and thinking.
Lastly, I’d like to introduce myself as your tour guide through the books (and other Meetups in case you join those as well). Personally, I’ve taken a rather circuitous route in my career but I’ve always been connected to science.
I earned my bachelors in chemistry and biochemistry. I spent seven years as a high school chemistry teacher (including one year at a boarding school), while earning my masters and doctorate in education. After realizing that education wasn’t something I could see myself doing for another thirty years, I moved on to a new area connected to science.
With my skills, I moved into distribution for laboratory equipment and consumables focusing on global clinical trial ancillaries. Moving from distribution for global ancillaries, I wanted a position where I could interact more with the scientists in the lab from academia (I do love learning), and in the labs (because it’s all so interesting).
Today, I work for a manufacturer and supplier. In my new role as a territory manager for PHCbi brand equipment, supplied by PHC Corporation of North America, I’ve been integrating myself into the scientific community in the Greater Philadelphia Area.
I will not write in scientific jargon, but rather like we’re talking in person (as you can see from this introduction). These meetups (and my book reviews) are what I do in my free time, because I want people to know that the scientific community is more than just scientists in a lab. We are people interested in connecting with other people. I hope you join us.
July: Gifts of the Crow: How perception, emotion, and thought allow smart birds to behave like humans by John Marzluff and Tony Angell
August: Stiff: the curious lives of human cadavers by Mary Roach
September: What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe
October: The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee
BONUS BOOK: Scientist to CEO: The Marketing Handbook to Help STEM Professionals Grow a Thriving Business by Jennifer Andrews