How do people get interested in science? Whether it's professional scientists, sci-fi enthusiasts or the general public — everyone has their own story. The "Spark of Science" series is all about how the story starts. Come here to read the personal narratives of some of today's best scientists, and add your own! Just email spark@nautil.us to have your entry considered.

The "Spark of Science" is a joint project of Nautilus magazine and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Dr. Robbert Dijkgraaf
Director and Leon Levy Professor,
Institute for Advanced Study
May 28, 2016
Dr. Chiara M. F. Mingarelli

Gravitational-wave Astrophysicist,
Caltech and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory
April 28, 2016

Sean B. Carroll, PhD

Vice President for Science Education,
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
April 1, 2016

Dr. Kirk Johnson

Sant Director
National Museum of Natural History​
March 23rd, 2016

Latest Stories
May 20th, 2016
The Hand That Feeds

I decided I wanted to be a chemist at five years of age, after watching a TV show for teachers that aired every Sunday morning. We lived in a tiny rural town with, at the time, less than a hundred people; it was Pinochet times. READ MORE

In the show, a guy sang an explanation of how water formed by oxygen and hydrogen. He said that liquid water and water vapor were exactly the same, and for me, that was a revelation! He sang about air pollution in Santiago (a big problem), a place that--for a kid living in a tiny rural area--was outer space. The experiments in the show were done by a hand that lived inside a box and she (it was a female voice who explained the experiments) was so soft and nice that I just wanted to try all the state changes and reactions. I devoured the guide book that my father got for the TV show (the show was part of a distance-learning program) before he even got to take a look at it! It was my secret. Nobody knew that I, a 5-year old, had such interest in a show that was meant for adults, for teachers.

After 13 years, and not a bit of struggle to convince my parents (at that time, education in Chile was not free and university cost a lot of money) to let me pursue this dream, I moved 500 km (about 300 miles) to be a scientist, to become “the hand” in that show. I became a chemist and I love it. After achieving that goal, I completed a PhD in glaciology. Now how I got there? Well, that is another story for another time!

—Carmen Vega
May 17th, 2016
Everyday Science

I love to read stories about how people get involved in science. Every story is unique. For me, my spark for science has been one lifelong flame, following me through stints in the world of popcorn and up high on electric poles. READ MORE

I call myself a citizen scientist because I’m not an academic. As a citizen scientist, I just keep learning things, and in the strangest of ways. For example, I was always afraid of math, so I thought I would be a writer. But those dreams fell apart for various reasons and I decided to leave school. I found myself in odd jobs, working in popcorn of all things, then for AT&T. Climbing poles and working on technical projects, I started learning about what I was doing. Frequency and electricity introduced me to math again and I was no longer afraid!

Now I peer at planets through a telescope with my neighbors. Our family examines fossils together. We plant seeds and watch them thrive. I do science every day; after all, I’m a citizen scientist.

—Linda Mott