Jahren dedicates Lab Girl to her mother, yet notes in the memoir that the two women had a strained relationship. Jahren’s mother was also intelligent and interested in science at a young age, and she won an Honorable Mention for a national science prize, but that was not enough to get her a scholarship to the University of Minnesota. Determined to attend anyway, the elder Mrs. Jahren worked long hours to afford college, but ended up dropping out and returning to her hometown, getting married, and raising three children. She spent time with Jahren, tending her garden, and studying for a correspondence degree in English Literature—Jahren recognizes that she inherited her mother’s tenacity, as well as a love of reading and writing. When Jahren goes off to college, she feels that she is fulfilling her mother’s frustrated ambitions, and whenever she encounters bumps along the road to success in her career, Jahren expresses fears that she will end up like her mother, a failed academic, raising for children at home.