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Meet-a-Scientist: Sarah Galvani-Townsend

Up next in our ‘meet-a-scientist’ series is the youngest scientist to have written for us at Science Journal for Kids. At just eleven-years-old, Sarah adapted not one but two papers for us. (Check them out: How to prevent rabies in India? and How can we control HIV worldwide?)

When it comes to explaining ground-breaking science in kid-friendly language; who knows better what other young people will understand than a young person themselves!

We wanted to catch up with Sarah to see what she’s up to now and whether she’s still forging ahead with her scientific explorations.

SJK: Hi Sarah! It’s been a while since you became our youngest ever science writer. What are you up to nowadays (science-related and otherwise)?

Sarah: I’m doing really well, despite how crazy our world is right now. It’s hard to believe that it’s been three years since those adaptations were published and that I’ll be starting high school next year. Since then, I’ve written a book chapter on Leprosy, which was a great process during which I learned a lot. Right now, I’m working on a paper concerning the correlation between universal (or free) healthcare and life expectancy. It’s a project that I’m excited about and looking forward to completing.

SJK: When did you first become interested in something scientific? What’s your earliest science-related memory?

Sarah: When I was only four or five my parents brought home a science kit that we could use together. I was fascinated by the way a few innocent-looking ingredients could make a volcano explode, or how I could make slime with only a few household items. From then on, I was hooked.

SJK: Who inspires you as a scientist?

Sarah: My father is the one who really inspires a lot of what I do. He has supported me in every endeavor I take on, from publishing articles to learning to code. But even more importantly, he taught me to think, and to observe the world around me, and then ask questions about it. Why did the volcano I made when I was younger actually erupt? What kind of reaction went off within the molecules?

SJK: We know you used to study rabies (and perhaps still do!). What interested you so much about rabies?

Sarah: Well, it wasn’t the disease itself, but rather its main carriers. I loved dogs. I used to read story after story about everything from their adventures to their evolution. So naturally, rabies, a disease that people automatically associate with dogs, was of interest.

SJK: And which topics and discoveries inspire you nowadays?

Sarah: I love topics that have endless discoveries yet to be made. The depths of our seas are particularly interesting since they have been explored so little. The sea creatures that live at the bottom of the ocean are seldom seen, and next to nothing is known about many of them. I find that very intriguing and would love to explore the seas one day.

SJK: What kind of things are you up to nowadays? Any new research or endeavors?

Sarah building a Raspberry Pi computer.

Sarah: Coding really interests me. The idea that, theoretically, I could create anything, is amazing. So far, I’ve just made some cool patterns and basic graphs, but the important thing is that I learn a bit more every day and that I keep going. There are some great coding resources out there that I always have at my disposal, so it’s never hard to learn more.

SJK: What challenges have you faced when exploring science? And how did you overcome them?

Sarah: Science doesn’t always work out the way you plan. Our bathroom sink is tainted green from a failed attempt at making my own clay! I doubt that I could count the number of times I wondered if I could really balance my schoolwork and the many endeavors I found myself caught up in. However, when you do succeed, the feeling it brings is worth all the hard work that needed to be put in.

SJK: Why do you think science matters and why do you think it’s important that kids and teenagers learn about new research?

Sarah and her sister with some robots they built.

Sarah: We need to understand what is happening around us, and more importantly, why it is happening. It’s because of science that we know the earth revolves around the sun. It’s because of science that we know our planet is heating up at a rapid pace and must be stopped. It’s because of science that we understand everything. But even more importantly, science is fun. Anything can be fun. As long as you approach it with the right mindset.

SJK: What are your hopes for the future? What do you plan to do next? (Would you like to work in science when you grow up?)

Sarah: Just like with science, I always try to keep an open mind. But right now, that is the path I’m headed towards! However, I know that I could change my mind at any moment, and I want to take every opportunity that interests me, from drawing to creative writing, to science.

SJK: What advice would you give to children and other young people who are interested in science?

Sarah: We are born scientists. The key is to never stop being a scientist. Observe, and ask questions. From a young age, we are constantly questioning everything. It’s why small children seem to do the strangest things, tasting and touching and listening to everything around them. Why are things the way they are? Observe the world around you. Why do so many trees grow at fractal angles? Why are their green leaves so good at photosynthesizing? Couldn’t they be blue or red or pink? And then investigate those questions. No matter how much you learn from those investigations, never stop asking questions.

SJK: Wow, what great advice! Thank you so much, Sarah. Good luck in all that you do and please keep in touch. We’d love to see your latest projects when they come to fruition.

How to prevent rabies in India?
How can we control HIV worldwide?

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