Lab Girl

by

Hope Jahren

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Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Knopf edition of Lab Girl published in 2016.
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Prologue Quotes

Guess what? You are now a scientist. People will tell you that you have to know math to be a scientist, or physics or chemistry. They’re wrong […] What comes first is a question, and you’re already there. It’s not nearly as involved as people make it out to be.

Related Characters: Hope Jahren (speaker)
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 1: Roots and Leaves Quotes

As much as I desperately wanted to be like my father, I knew that I was meant to be an extension of my indestructible mother: a do-over to make real the life that she deserved and should have had. I left high school a year early to take a scholarship at the University of Minnesota—the same school that my mother, father, and all of my brothers had attended.

Related Symbols: Minnesota
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:

Science has taught me that everything is more complicated than we first assume, and that being able to derive happiness from discovery is a recipe for a beautiful life. It has also convinced me that carefully writing everything down is the only real defense we have against forgetting something important that once was and is no more […].

Related Characters: Hope Jahren (speaker)
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:

Each beginning is the end of a waiting. We are each given exactly one chance to be. Each of us is both impossible and inevitable. Every replete tree was first a seed that waited.

Related Characters: Hope Jahren (speaker)
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:

I started working in a research laboratory in order to save my own life. To save myself form the fear of having to drop out and from then being bodily foreclosed upon by some boy back home. From the small-town wedding and the children who would follow, who would have grown to hate me as I vented my frustrated ambitions on them.

Related Characters: Hope Jahren (speaker)
Related Symbols: Minnesota, Labs
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:

“Hey, you guys! Want a cold one?”

“No, I don’t. That stuff you are drinking tastes like piss.”

“Well, I don’t really like beer, but that stuff does seem pretty awful.”

“Jean Genet wouldn’t have even stolen that shit.”

Related Characters: Hope Jahren (speaker), Bill (speaker)
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:

I was convinced that the trees were giving me a sign and that my future career was unraveling. I was panicking, picturing myself on the assembly line, trimming the jowls off of dismembered hog heads, one after the other, for six hours a day, just as the mother of my childhood friend had done for nearly twenty years.

Related Characters: Hope Jahren (speaker)
Related Symbols: Minnesota
Page Number: 74
Explanation and Analysis:

For all the time that we spent together, Bill had mostly remained a mystery to me. I had been around him enough to know that he didn’t do drugs, skip class, or litter on the street—incongruously enough, considering his disaffected comportment—but I didn’t know anything beyond that.

Related Characters: Hope Jahren (speaker), Bill
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2: Wood and Knots Quotes

Why are they together, the tree and the fungus? We don’t know. The fungus could certainly live very well alone almost anywhere, but it chooses to entwine itself with the tree over an easier and more independent life […] perhaps the fungus can somehow sense that when it is part of a symbiosis, it is also not alone.

Related Characters: Hope Jahren (speaker)
Page Number: 105
Explanation and Analysis:

Thus splitters and lumpers are both productive only when forced into bickering collaboration, and though together they produce great maps, they rarely return from field trips on speaking terms.

Related Characters: Hope Jahren (speaker), Bill
Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:

America may say that it values science, but it sure as hell doesn’t want to pay for it.

Related Characters: Hope Jahren (speaker)
Page Number: 123
Explanation and Analysis:

I learned that female professors and departmental secretaries are the natural enemies of the academic world, as I was privileged to overhear discussions of my sexual orientation and probable childhood traumas from ten to ten-thirty each morning through the paper-thin walls of the break room located adjacent to my office.

Related Characters: Hope Jahren (speaker)
Page Number: 129
Explanation and Analysis:

While this great cosmic fire hose bathes you in epiphanies, you are overtaken by your urgent need to document them and thus are an inspired manual for all perfect tomorrows. Unfortunately, this is when reality closes ranks and conspires to thwart you in earnest. Your hands shake such that you can’t hold a pen. You pull out a tape recorder and push “record” and fill cassette after cassette.

Related Characters: Hope Jahren (speaker)
Page Number: 145-146
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 3: Flowers and Fruit Quotes

The discovery of trees that could live in the dark is akin to a discovery of humans that could live underwater.

Related Characters: Hope Jahren (speaker)
Page Number: 196
Explanation and Analysis:

Look at those guys. I’m going to do this job for thirty more years, work as hard as any of them, accomplish just as much or more, and not one of them will ever look me straight in the eye like I belong here.

Related Characters: Hope Jahren (speaker), Bill
Page Number: 200
Explanation and Analysis:

I discover within a second context that when something just won’t work, moving heaven and earth often won’t make it work—and similarly, there are some things that you just can’t screw up.

Related Characters: Hope Jahren (speaker), Clint
Page Number: 207
Explanation and Analysis:

“C’mon, Bill, you’re with us now. Why don’t you drive?”

Related Characters: Clint (speaker), Hope Jahren, Bill
Page Number: 209
Explanation and Analysis:

A manic-depressive pregnant woman cannot take Depakote or Tegretol or Seroquel or lithium or Rsiperdal or any of the other things that she’s been taking on a daily basis for years in order to keep herself from hearing voices and banging her head against the wall. Once her pregnancy is confirmed she must cease all medications quickly (another known trigger) and stand on the train tracks just waiting for the locomotive to hit.

Related Characters: Hope Jahren (speaker)
Page Number: 213
Explanation and Analysis:

I know that I am supposed to be happy and excited. I am supposed to be shopping and painting and talking lovingly to the baby inside me. I am supposed to celebrate the ripening fruit of love and luxuriate in the fullness of my womb. But I won’t do any of this.

Related Characters: Hope Jahren (speaker)
Page Number: 217
Explanation and Analysis:

When I wake, I hold my baby and I think about how he is my second opal that I can forever draw a circle around and point to as mine.

Related Characters: Hope Jahren (speaker), Jahren’s Son
Page Number: 228
Explanation and Analysis:

While I am too impulsive and aggressive to think of myself as a proper woman, I will also never fully shake this dull, false belief that I am something less than a man.

Related Characters: Hope Jahren (speaker), Jahren’s Son
Page Number: 256
Explanation and Analysis:

I got out my bike and looked up through the warm, tropical sky, into the terminal coldness of space, and saw light that had been emitted years ago from unimaginably hot fires that were still burning on the other side of the galaxy. I put on my helmet and rode to the lab, ready to spend the rest of the night using the other half of my heart.

Related Characters: Hope Jahren (speaker)
Related Symbols: Labs
Page Number: 267
Explanation and Analysis:

It looks as if the bigger potatoes of the future might feed more people while nourishing them less. I don’t have an answer for that one.

Related Characters: Hope Jahren (speaker)
Page Number: 271
Explanation and Analysis:
No matches.