Kerry Bennett, Local Author and Board Member

In Chapter 3 of her new book, Girls Just Like You Who Grew Up to Become… Scientists (Flagstaff edition), local science writer Kerry Bennett interviews Northern Arizona University Assistant Professor Naomi Lee, a biochemist whose research is focused on developing vaccines for several diseases, including HPV and opioid addiction. Much of Naomi’s research is devoted to improving health for people in Native communities.

Says Kerry, “Naomi grew up as a member of the Seneca Nation of Indians in New York state. She is proud of her Indigenous heritage, and she is committed to helping Native students learn about science. I was truly inspired by her commitment and by the many ways she is mentoring students, including teaching chemistry to high school students—creating materials that incorporate traditional knowledge such as using plants for medicines.”

Naomi faced some challenges during her journey to becoming a scientist, but she encourages girls to persevere and to be resilient.

“Science is for everyone,” Naomi said. “If you see yourself as a scientist, use your curiosity as your guide. If something looks interesting, follow your curiosity!”

In Chapter 3: Meet biochemist Naomi Lee, we find out what first sparked Naomi’s curiosity about science, how she became interested in biology, chemistry, and math, and her advice for girls who want to be scientists.

“The key to becoming a scientist is to be always dreaming about that next step, no matter how far you go. Even now, I’m dreaming about my next step, too!”

“I hope girls in our community, especially Native girls, will see themselves as they read Naomi’s story,” Kerry said. “She is a great inspiration to all of us!”

The book’s introduction talks about the many different places scientists work in Flagstaff, and Kerry plans to eventually add more chapters on scientists from local organizations including the Museum of Northern Arizona, Lowell Observatory, U.S. Geological Survey, W. L. Gore & Associates, and the local National Park Service. You can find newly released chapters on the “Festival Insights” blog.

Do you know a Flagstaff girl who wants to be a scientist someday? Take a look at the chapters published so far:

Watch for new chapters of the book on the Festival of Science website in coming weeks—including chapters on conservation biologist Clare Aslan and disease ecologist Bridget Barker.