Book Cover
Lab Girl

★ ★

TL;DR: Hope has always known that she was meant to be a scientist. Being a woman, it hasn’t always been easy, but her work has always kept her going. She has an incredible persistence in the face of adversity that has gotten her to where she is today. Good storytelling, bit unrelatable to me, but that’s okay I’m not who she wrote it for.


There is no shame in breaking something, only in not being able to fix it. (8)

People are like plants: they grow toward the light. I chose science because science gave me what I needed--a home as defined in the most literal sense: a safe place to be. (18)

My lab is a place where my guilt over what I haven't done is supplanted by all of the things that I am getting done. [...] My lab is a place where I can be the child that I still am. [...] My lab is like a church because it is where I figure out what I believe. [...] I know damn well that if there had been a way to get to success without traveling through disaster someone would have already done it, but there's still no journal where I can tell the story of how my science is done with both the heart and the hands. (19)

Science has taught me that everything is more complicated than we first assume, and that being able to derive happiness from discovery is a recipe for a beautiful life. It has also convinced me that carefully writing everything down is the only real defense we have against forgetting something important that once was and is no more. (29)

The inescapable cube shape of salt persists because the very atoms that comprise pure salt are bonded together in the shape of a square scaffold that outlines an endless number of cubes. Any break to this structure will occur along the planes of weakness that define these bonds, resulting in more cubes, all repeating the same atomic pattern right down to their smallest components. (69)

On some deep level, the realization that I could do good science was accompanied by the knowledge that I had formally and terminally missed my chance to become like any of the woman that I had every known. (71) [Tiger: echoes similar feelings about working at PayPal after high school]

"Anything except that NPR shit. I don't want to get all worked up over the plight of fishermen in some place that I can't even find on the map. I got my own problems right here." (82)

The whole place is different on a Friday at midnight, when the university belongs to you. Smug in the presumption that you are the only working person within a fifty-mile radius, you accomplish just enough to feel justified in being naughty. In the rhythm of these Friday nights beats the honest, humble heart of science, and it also explains how discovery and mischief are two sides of the very same coin. (100) [Tiger: I freaking love this.]

Bill complains about each student with uniformly wicked contempt and then spends yet another day rescuing them from themselves. (111) [Tiger: bq is that you?]

"'What if? Fuck 'what if'. None of that shit will change anything!" Bill hollered. "What if you don't get a grant? You can't exactly pay me less than you do now [...] You just keep putting on that power suit and hawk our wares at those interviews, and get us out of here for God's sake. If we built this shit once, we can build it twice." (172). [Tiger: get you someone like Bill :)]

Hardening has worked for eons because a tree can trust the sun to tell it when winter is coming, even during years when the weather is capricious. These plants know that when your world is changing rapidly, it is important to have identified the one thing that you can always count upon. (191)

There are two ways to deal with a major setback: one is to pause, take a deep breath, clear your mind and go home, distraact yourself for the evening, and come back fresh the next day to start over. The other is to immediately resubmerge, put your head under and dive to the bottom, work an hour longer than you did last night, and stay in the moment of what went wrong. While the first way is a good path toward adequacy, it is the second way that leads to important discoveries. (252) [Tiger: wouldn't quite agree...think it's case-by-case and sometimes you can do more harm than good by diving back in]