Inspiring curiosity in the next generation of scientists

Olivia Habern on May 14, 2020

Hear from Katie Sullivan-Bibee, Senior Supervisor of Molecular Biology Assay Development at 10x Genomics, as she shares her story of coming to love science and nature. Plus, find resources to raise your own little scientists with an appreciation for scientific exploration and discovery.

Growing up in the Bay Area, Katie Sullivan-Bibee, Senior Supervisor of Molecular Biology Assay Development at 10x Genomics, was always fascinated by animals and nature as a child. She attributed her passion for scientific exploration today to some of her earliest experiences interacting with the natural world:

“I grew up with a creek in my backyard and would literally spend hours wading in the creek collecting tadpoles, worms, snails, and all kinds of insects. I would keep them in jars and boxes in my room, which I'm sure my parents didn't love, but they went out of their way to encourage my curiosity.”

Trips to the zoo and local museums. Hiking and camping adventures. Simple at-home science experiments and encounters with medical technology—even the chance to lie inside an MRI machine. These were all experiences that formed the scientific curriculum of Katie’s youth. From conditioning her hamsters to expect food in response to the pulse of a flashlight for a middle school science fair, she would go on to design and build robots for regional and national competitions with her high school robotics team. As she recalled, “these incredible experiences really cemented my love of science and technology, and helped me realize that my passion could be a career.”

Now, Katie has taken up the legacy that she received from her parents and teachers, sharing the beauty of nature with her own daughter and encouraging her to be curious.“She is only 2 and a half, but we try to play outside everyday. We spend lots of time observing insects, growing plants from seedlings, and watching the birds at our bird feeder. I hope she pursues whatever career is most exciting for her but will always at least have an appreciation for science and nature.”

Katie and her daughter on a walk.
Katie and her daughter on a walk.

Even with the recent challenge of shelter in place, Katie has been finding ways to encourage her daughter’s scientific curiosity. She relayed some of what she’s experienced with her family in the past two months working from home together:

“My daughter's daycare has been closed since March, and caring for her while also working from home has been a challenge, to say the least. My husband and I switch off spending time with her so each of us can work and attend meetings, but also try to do some fun activities with her. We have done the Magic Milk experiment, made our own play-doh, picked and pressed wildflowers, planted seeds and watched them germinate, and hung up a bird feeder to watch our local birds. The current hit is collecting insects!”

Finding ladybugs with dad!
Finding ladybugs with dad!

“We got my daughter a cute bug collecting kit, which includes a terrarium, net, and a magnifying glass. We are going on walks twice a day to inspect leaves and flowers and collect any bugs we find. She loves her magnifying glass and is fascinated to watch ants, beetles, ladybugs, and bees. We talk about what the insects may need in their temporary home and collect plants and soil to keep them happy while we observe them. We're also trying to teach her the importance of releasing the insects back to the same place we found them after watching them for an hour or so. This has made all of our walks extra fun, as each time we go out it is like a treasure hunt!”

Katie’s daughter with her bug collecting kit. “It’s time to go, Mom!”
Katie’s daughter with her bug collecting kit. “It’s time to go, Mom!”

Offering some words of wisdom on the current situation, Katie said, “We're working on taking each day, even each hour, at a time. It has been difficult to shift to accepting things as they are, instead of how we wish they could be, but we're trying to appreciate this as a unique opportunity to spend some quality time together.”

Thank you, Katie, for sharing your story!

Scientific curiosity inspires much of what we do at 10x Genomics, and it’s something that we also love to share. Recently, we curated a number of at-home science experiments that parents can do with their kids. We also made some kid-friendly coloring sheets showcasing the biology of cells, DNA organization, neuroanatomy, and even the purpose of a t-SNE plot.

Teamwork Within the Cell: Proteins coordinate to coil and manipulate DNA.
Teamwork Within the Cell: Proteins coordinate to coil and manipulate DNA.
X Marks the Spot: Explore Amygdala Coast, then make your way to the Cerebral Highlands.
X Marks the Spot: Explore Amygdala Coast, then make your way to the Cerebral Highlands.
Making Connections: Possibly the clearest explanation of a t-SNE plot ever.
Making Connections: Possibly the clearest explanation of a t-SNE plot ever.

If you’d like to, share a photo of your child’s filled-out coloring sheet by reposting on Twitter! We’d love to hear from you.

Nirav Patel, Science and Technology Advisor at 10x Genomics, shared his 7 year-old’s latest work. Indeed, #neuroscience.
Nirav Patel, Science and Technology Advisor at 10x Genomics, shared his 7 year-old’s latest work. Indeed, #neuroscience.

We hope these coloring sheets and Katie's story of finding a passion for science can serve you as you spend time with your kids at home and teach them about the importance of exploring, asking questions, and reaching conclusions about the world around them. There is a whole world out there to study and understand, and we’re just getting started.