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.

France A. Cordova
Director of the National Science Foundation
July 21st, 2016
Dr. Robbert Dijkgraaf

Director and Leon Levy Professor,
Institute for Advanced Study
May 28th, 2016

Dr. Chiara M. F. Mingarelli

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

Sean B. Carroll, PhD

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

Dr. Kirk Johnson

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

Latest Stories
June 10th, 2016
Apollo and the Ocean


—Sean Chamberlin
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