March 19, 2004  


SLAC Scientist’s Biography Will Appear in Middle School Textbook

By Kate Metopolis

Cherrill Spencer (NLC) has devoted significant time over the past 28 years encouraging young people to go into science. When publisher Macmillan McGraw-Hill approached her about being one of the scientists profiled in a new science textbook, it was natural for her to agree. Educators hope to inspire and inform students early enough in their lives to prevent having them unknowingly make choices that would rule out science-based careers, such as not taking as many math courses as they can before college.

Cherrill Spencer (NLC) (Photo by Diana Rogers)

Spencer’s youthful ambition to become an astronaut is lamentably missing from the biographical sketch, but, then, the editors only had 200 words in which to explain to sixth-graders how she came to design accelerator magnets and how they’re used in addressing the question “What is everything made of?”

Spencer believes that showing kids who the scientists are may be as important as telling them what science is. The scientists’ profiles reveal that “we’re regular people—we’re not like Einstein. That will help counteract the myth that boys as well as girls sometimes believe, that you have to be a genius to be a scientist. Most of us aren’t,” she laughed. She’d like students to appreciate that a scientist doesn’t need to win a Nobel prize to find the work rewarding.

Another reason for agreeing to appear was that “it helps bring our work into the public’s mind,” Spencer said. “We’re doing worthwhile research. I see it as an advert for high energy physics and for SLAC.”

The textbook will be available in 2005.



The Stanford Linear Accelerator Center is managed by Stanford University for the US Department of Energy

Last update Wednesday March 17, 2004 by Emily Ball