GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Museum of Natural History and the Alachua County Library District have partnered to produce the National Endowment of the Arts Big Read Alachua County – a series of free events that build community and highlight women in science.

NEA Big Read logoThe NEA Big Read is a program designed to broaden understanding of the world and bring people together through the joy of sharing a good book. The events aim to provide role models for future scientists and inspire curiosity, wonder and hope for all. As part of the program, the museum and library district will feature the award-winning memoir “Lab Girl” by Hope Jahren.

“I had read this book before, and while I knew that the path in science for women was likely different than that of their male counterparts, this book really opened my eyes to one way that story could play out,” said Florida Museum educator Chelsea Collison. “By focusing on the topic of women in STEM, we hope to lift the voices and stories of women from diverse backgrounds to learn more about how they got to where they are now, where they hope to be in the future and what amazing things they are learning in their fields of research.”

This series includes book discussions, keynote speakers, storytelling events and other activities that celebrate women in STEM. Events run from Sept. 2020 through March 2021.

4 scientists in image
“Lab Blitz” will take guests into the labs of four Florida Museum researchers: Nicole Cannarozzi, top left, Pamela Soltis, Sarah Steele Cabrera and Carmi Milagros Thompson, bottom right. Top row photos ©Kristen Grace/Florida Museum; bottom row photos courtesy of Sarah Steele Cabrera and Carmi Milagros Thompson

The Florida Museum and Alachua County Library District kick off the celebration with a virtual event, “Lab Blitz,” on Sept. 19 at 3 p.m. Visitors are invited to virtually tour the labs of four museum scientists: Nicole Cannarozzi, Pamela Soltis, Sarah Steele Cabrera and Carmi Milagros Thompson. Learn about their research experiences while getting a sneak peek into the museum collections via Zoom. To sign up, visit

Three virtual book discussions will be held on Oct. 13, Nov. 17 and Jan. 12, 2021 to discuss “Lab Girl” with library staff and special guest speakers, including Florida Museum scientists Caroline Storer and Amanda Markee from the Kawahara Lab, Lindsay Bloch from the Ceramic Technology Lab and Niyomi House from the Division of Mammalogy.

“We are excited to share Hope Jahren’s candid memoir with Alachua County and present engaging programs and speakers that embody the themes in her book,” said Jasmine Tran, Alachua County Library District Adult Services Senior Manager. “Books can take us inside another person’s perspective and reading programs like the NEA Big Read have the power to build our empathy and understanding on a community scale. We hope these themes of resilience and passion for science spark conversations and inspire the next generation of scientists.”

Younger readers can join discussions about three other books: “Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science” by Jeannine Atkins; “Evelyn the Adventurous Entomologist: The True Story of a World-Traveling Bug Hunter” by Christine Evans; and “Swimming with Sharks: The Daring Discoveries of Eugenie Clark” by Heather Lang.

Book covers

All book meetups will feature special guest speakers and opportunities for participants to discuss their thoughts, as well as meet real scientists and experts. Readers should be sure to write down questions and notes while reading up!

Each family will be able to pick up one of the four books for free from multiple Alachua County Library District locations and the Florida Museum beginning Sept. 14, but early reservations are encouraged, as copies are limited. Book reservations begin Aug. 31, and pickup begins Sept. 14. For times, locations and to sign up, visit

In addition to the discussions, the museum’s trademark “Fieldwork Fails” event, organized in partnership with Guts & Glory GNV, will also be returning virtually on Sept. 24. Tune in to hear about the reality and randomness of scientific fieldwork with unpredictable and hilarious stories. To sign up, visit

For a full list of program activities, visit These events are free, but registration is required.

The NEA provided a $15,000 grant to fund the series. NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.


Writer: Nikhil Srinivasan, 352-273-2034,
Sources: Chelsea Collison,; Jasmine Tran,
Media contact: Kaitlin Gardiner,; Rachel Cook,