Lab Girl

by

Hope Jahren

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Labs Symbol Icon

For Hope Jahren, the laboratory is a space of safety, comfort, and a symbol of home in its most spiritual sense. Her most beloved memories from her childhood—which was otherwise dominated by a sense of loneliness and frustration—were the late afternoons she spent in her father’s science laboratory at the local community college in small-town Minnesota. She felt both free and in control when she played with the instruments and helped her father prepare for the following day’s class; it was one of the reasons why Jahren ended up studying science in college. As an undergraduate, Jahren took a position as a lab assistant at the University of Minnesota. She proclaims—perhaps hyperbolically—that this job saved her from the terrible fate of having to return to her hometown, get married, and become a stay-at-home mother. All of these early experiences contributed to Jahren’s lifelong dream to run her own lab, just as her father did. And while her first years at Georgia Tech were difficult and money was extremely tight, Jahren found that running her own lab was exactly as fulfilling as she had hoped it would be. She considers her lab a refuge from the stresses of the professional world, and most evenings after tucking her son in, she returns to the lab where, as Jahren herself notes, she uses the other half of her heart.

Labs Quotes in Lab Girl

The Lab Girl quotes below all refer to the symbol of Labs. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Life Cycles Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Knopf edition of Lab Girl published in 2016.
Part 1: Roots and Leaves Quotes

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:
Part 3: Flowers and Fruit Quotes

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:
Get the entire Lab Girl LitChart as a printable PDF.
Lab Girl PDF

Labs Symbol Timeline in Lab Girl

The timeline below shows where the symbol Labs appears in Lab Girl. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: Roots and Leaves
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Demystification of Science Theme Icon
Jahren spends her evenings in her father’s laboratory, playing with the scientific instruments she finds in the drawers. She particularly likes the slide... (full context)
Women and Science Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
...up to that point, she understood that it was her destiny to have her own lab, just as her father had. Her work in science reminded her of her joyful evenings... (full context)
Women and Science Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Demystification of Science Theme Icon
Now as an adult, Jahren has her own laboratory, and she considers it her refuge from the rest of the world. The unanswered phone... (full context)
Demystification of Science Theme Icon
When Jahren turns 40 years old, after 14 years as a professor, she and her lab partner, Bill, finally create a machine that will work with a mass spectrometer, which is... (full context)
Demystification of Science Theme Icon
...of her work—from the notepads to the mass spectrometer itself to the salary of her lab partner and any assistants—must be raised by Jahren herself, from the federal government or private... (full context)
Science vs. Literature Theme Icon
...turned into disenchantment, however, and when she received an offer to work in a research lab instead, she jumped at the chance. (full context)
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
...doctoral studies at the University of California, Berkeley. That was also where she met her lab partner and lifelong friend, Bill. Jahren was the graduate assistant on a field trip through... (full context)
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
...the trip ended, Jahren approached her advisor and asked him to hire Bill in the lab, as he was clearly one of the smartest students she had met up to that... (full context)
Women and Science Theme Icon
Demystification of Science Theme Icon
...was completely alone in Berkeley, far from her family, with few connections outside of her lab. She felt like she should call to tell someone about her discovery, but had no... (full context)
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
...of their own families, and once the ceremony is over, they head back to the lab and continue working. They spend the night filling glass tubes with carbon dioxide, which they... (full context)
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Mental Illness and Treatment Theme Icon
...that chewed on her paws, but they loved her just the same. Back in the lab, they clean up the glass together, and Jahren asks Bill what he plans to do,... (full context)
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Mental Illness and Treatment Theme Icon
...her career as a science professor. After teaching class, she orders supplies for her new lab, and generally prepares for Bill’s arrival in January. When he arrives, Jahren drives to the... (full context)
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Mental Illness and Treatment Theme Icon
...but he is unconcerned about where he sleeps—he wants to go straight to see the lab. Despite the fact that it is a dingy and abandoned space, Bill can see its... (full context)
Part 2: Wood and Knots
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Demystification of Science Theme Icon
...professor: she and Bill are fully engrossed in the work of building the new Jahren lab, filling it with the supplies she ordered, as well as surplus supplies that Bill found... (full context)
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Jahren notes the similarities to their research lab, with many of the monkeys performing animal versions of their various activities: there are macaques... (full context)
Life Cycles Theme Icon
Demystification of Science Theme Icon
...three-year cycles, she must solicit grant money to pay her employees, buy equipment for her lab, and do all of the necessary traveling. Like a tree, she must succeed every year,... (full context)
Demystification of Science Theme Icon
...Jahren with a total of $10,000 in cash to spend on supplies and equipment, student lab workers, and travel to attend conferences or workshops. (full context)
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Mental Illness and Treatment Theme Icon
...with her group of undergraduates, Jahren realizes that she has found her people within the lab, and begins to really feel at home. She is still an outsider at conferences, among... (full context)
Demystification of Science Theme Icon
...hard to find, especially in the era before cell phones. When he isn’t in the lab and Jahren needs him, she simply goes to the many places he usually parks his... (full context)
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Demystification of Science Theme Icon
...is desperately dehydrated upon waking in the morning. Some days, Jahren finds Bill in the lab as early as 7:30 A.M., consuming as much water as possible to start the day. (full context)
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Demystification of Science Theme Icon
Back in the lab, Bill and Jahren discuss the fact that he would probably be a prime suspect for... (full context)
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Demystification of Science Theme Icon
...new home is that he spends nearly all of his waking hours working in the lab, making him available to listen to students at nearly any hour of day or night.... (full context)
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Demystification of Science Theme Icon
...decide that veterinary medicine was probably not for her, and she returned to the botany lab the following year. (full context)
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Mental Illness and Treatment Theme Icon
...crying on her bed for 36 hours. During the mania, however, Jahren runs to the lab to tell Bill about a scientific breakthrough she just discovered, and to inform him that... (full context)
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Mental Illness and Treatment Theme Icon
When Jahren returned to the lab, days later, Bill informed her that he had secured the van for their trip to... (full context)
Demystification of Science Theme Icon
...up, so Jahren began taking advantage of any supplies that weren’t being used by other labs or offices in desperation. Bill’s salary had also run out, and he was homeless and... (full context)
Demystification of Science Theme Icon
Mental Illness and Treatment Theme Icon
Science vs. Literature Theme Icon
Jahren began to fear that she would lose her lab and no longer be a scientist, which was the only concrete dream she ever had.... (full context)
Part 3: Flowers and Fruit
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Demystification of Science Theme Icon
Jahren and Bill were on their way to creating a bigger, better Jahren lab at Johns Hopkins, and while they were presenting at a conference in Denver, they bumped... (full context)
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
...well. He was a mathematician, and from his office in the same building as Jahren’s lab, Clint wrote computer models to predict lava flow within the Earth’s crust. Jahren is amazed... (full context)
Women and Science Theme Icon
Mental Illness and Treatment Theme Icon
...and finally decides to put herself on medical leave. She still comes in to the lab, though she doesn’t handle chemicals or participate in the experiments—she simply needs to be there... (full context)
Women and Science Theme Icon
Mental Illness and Treatment Theme Icon
...Jahren is angry and confused, and will always wonder why she was banned from the lab that she created and was the safest place in the world to her. Clint is... (full context)
Women and Science Theme Icon
Mental Illness and Treatment Theme Icon
Now that she cannot return to the lab, Jahren has plenty of time to think about the arrival of the baby. But she... (full context)
Women and Science Theme Icon
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
One evening, Jahren sneaks back into her lab after everyone else has gone home, and sits with Reba in the dark. When Bill... (full context)
Life Cycles Theme Icon
...will remember and reenact the processes necessary to survive in the colder climate. In the lab, Jahren soaks seeds in sterile water, and works in a space where sterile air is... (full context)
Life Cycles Theme Icon
Demystification of Science Theme Icon
...This meant that they could replace old supplies, no longer needed to steal from other labs, and that Bill could actually have a consistent salary from year to year. This also... (full context)
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Demystification of Science Theme Icon
Whenever they had a new lab assistant to break in, Bill and Jahren would first give him hundreds of vials to... (full context)
Life Cycles Theme Icon
One morning as Jahren entered the lab, Bill greeted her with news of one of their specimens, known as C6. The plant... (full context)
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
...were shopping “like people with mutual funds,” for once in their lives. Back in the lab, they wrapped expensive ham around caviar and microwaved it, enjoying the luxury of it, when... (full context)
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
Jahren’s son asks if she will be going back to the lab that night, and Jahren says yes, but that she will be home by the time... (full context)
Life Cycles Theme Icon
...three years overdue, and that she has rescheduled once already. Bill comes in to the lab, and as she is noticing that he hardly looks any different after 20 years, he... (full context)
Family and Friendship Theme Icon
...a wife and kids, because he has dedicated so much time to Jahren and the lab. He seems unconcerned about this, noting that at 50, he is too young to be... (full context)