In Part 1 of her interview last week, Liz Heinecke shared some of the details about her interest in science as a kid, her educational and professional background in science, and her decision to leave the world of science research to become a full-time stay-at-home mom to her three kids.

Today, Heinecke talks about life after deciding to take a step back from her work in labs. Specifically, she discusses how she has been just as active as ever in the science world, but has done so primarily through her work in blogging, writing, educating, and outreach, as opposed to laboratory research. She shares how the different stages in her journey have unfolded and how it all began with the start of her blog, The Kitchen Pantry Scientist.

 

MUIPR: It seems that since making the decision to become a full-time stay-at-home mom, you’ve actually gotten busier than ever. For starters, after making that decision, you launched your own blog, The Kitchen Pantry Scientist. What inspired you to start blogging, and what did you hope to achieve through blogging?

LIZ HEINECKE: No, I was not experienced in blogging. Someone asked me to write a kids’ activity blog for a local retailer. I learned how to use WordPress, and I quickly discovered that what parents were really interested in — because I mean there are a million activity blogs — and I realized what they really liked was the science. So I actually stopped that blog and started just a full science blog to make science easy for parents to do with their kids. I saw a need for it, and I also saw that there weren’t a lot of female role models [in this regard]. People want to see their peers doing science with their kids. You see examples like Bill Nye, who is fantastic, but it’s a man in a white lab coat, and it’s intimidating. So I thought, “Well, if other parents could see a mom doing science with her kids, maybe they would be more likely to do it themselves.”

 

MUIPR: Definitely! Now, on top of the blog, you have quite a bit of other projects and commitments that you juggle. You are the creator of an app for the iPhone and iPod touch called KidScience, you appear monthly on a TV segment for NBC Minneapolis/St. Paul, you teach microbiology to nursing students, and you’ve worked with the Science Museum of Minnesota and even did work with NASA, but that program was ultimately cut for lack of funding, correct?

LIZ: Yes, but I’m still working with the museum on their Earth Day event, and I do education outreach when I can on my own now. I have my NASA training, so I’m ready to go; I continue using that training even now that the program has ended!

 

Liz Heinecke loves to hear that her book is making kids excited about doing experiments with their parents (kitchenpantryscientist.com)

Liz Heinecke loves to hear that her book, “Kitchen Science Lab for Kids,” is making kids excited about doing experiments with their parents (kitchenpantryscientist.com)

MUIPR: That’s awesome! So with all of these different projects, did these opportunities arise independently of one another, or has it kind of been a journey in which each experience you’ve had has paved the way for another?

LIZ: Yeah, one really paved the way for another. I started doing my blog, and when I really started going strongly and I joined social media, which was a huge boom for what I do. Through social media, I was able to attend a NASA tweetup for a space shuttle launch down in Florida with lots of other great science people there. And through Twitter, I also got my NBC TV gig. One of the local news anchors who I was following on Twitter saw my stuff and said, “Hey, would you ever come on and do an experiment?” and I said, “Sure!” And that really kicked off doing science on TV, which I do quite a bit now and it’s [great]. I mean, like I said, I love being a mom out there showing other moms how to do science with their kids.

 

MUIPR: Most recently, you worked with Quarry Books to write your own Hands-On Family book, “Kitchen Science Lab for Kids.” How did that project come about?

LIZ: The publisher actually found my website; they do a Hands-On Family book series, and they said they’d like to do a science book and found me online and asked me to do the book. And it turned out to be a great fit. I always thought that if I ever was to do a book, I wanted it to be colorful, have lots of pictures of kids doing science, and have some diversity in it. Because of the way they did it — they let me hire a photographer and I orchestrated how they did the photo shoots, and they really did a great job laying it all out — I really got a book that I’m proud of. I love it!

 

MUIPR: What was it about the book that you were the most excited about in terms of what you had hoped a book like this could bring to families?

LIZ: Well, what I hoped would happen is sort of happening. I have parents say, “I brought the book home, and my kids sat on the stairs looking at it for two hours, saying we’re going to do this experiment, and this experiment, and this experiment this weekend!” And that’s exactly what I want.

 

MUIPR: So for you it’s really about making science fun and exciting for kids.

LIZ: Yeah, and for parents, too. I’ve had feedback from parents — I have the book set up basically like recipes — and parents have said it’s really approachable, [and] it’s great that there are pictures of what to do. So the effect has been good so far, which I’m really happy about.

 

Check back next Wednesday to see Part 3 of Heinecke’s interview, in which she addresses the topic of women in STEM and shares her thoughts on concepts like the importance of sparking girls’ interest in topics like science from a young age.

 

If you are a woman working in STEM and are interested in being featured in our ‘Women Leaders in STEM’ series, or if you know a woman working in STEM whose story you’d like to see up on the blog, shoot us an email at blog.muipr@gmail.com or tweet me @tamarahoumi