Children who became researchers – their stories in a new book

The newly published children’s book “Forskardrömmar” (“Dreams of Research”) opens the door to the university and tells the stories of children who became professional researchers. The Young Academy of Sweden is behind the book, in which two researchers from Linköping University describe their childhood and how they ended up as researchers.

Photo credit Thor Balkhed“I decided to participate in the book to show that researchers can come from any type of background. I’m sure that every child who reads Forskardrömmar will find something to identify with in the narratives”, says Magnus Jonsson, now head of research in organic photonics and nano-optics at the Laboratory of Organic Electronics, Department of Science and Technology. He grew up in the small town Kvänum in Västergötland, far from universities and the academic world. But he enjoyed school, and thought it was great to learn new things. “I hope that some of the children who read the book will recognise themselves in my story. My family wasn’t at all academic, and didn’t really have a clear idea of what it means to be a researcher. But I did know that I wanted to go to university. It was only towards the end of my education, when I was working on a degree project, that I found out how exciting it is to do something that no-one else has ever done before.”

Interest in solving problems

Eleni StavrinidouEleni Stavrinidou Photo credit Emma BurendahlEleni Stavrinidou grew up on Cyprus. Her parents were not academics, but they didn’t treat Eleni any differently from her three brothers during her upbringing, and supported her in her desire to explore and discover.
“An important part of my story is about an interest in solving problems, creating your own structures, finding things out and exploring your own passion. When I was a child, I didn’t know that I wanted to become a researcher – that came later. But the driving force to discover things and gain new knowledge was there from the start. I’m sure that children are fascinated by this.”
Eleni Stavrinidou is today head of research into electronic plants in the Laboratory of Organic Electronics, Department of Science and Technology.
“People have a stereotyped image of researchers as men with unruly white hair. That’s why it’s important to show girls that there are many women researchers, that they once were children and have followed their dreams.”

Children are curious

Book cover of the book ForskardrömmarForskardrömmar is targeted at children aged 9-12 years and contains illustrated narratives of 60 researchers, all associated with Sweden in some way. The purpose of the book is to show that also researchers have been children with dreams, that researchers are people of many different types and come from many different backgrounds, and that you can research into pretty much anything.
The book is the initiative of The Young Academy of Sweden. Academy member Sara Liin, researcher in the Division of Neurobiology, is one of three LiU researchers whose stories are included.
“One of the focus areas of the Academy is outreach, and broadening recruitment. We discussed how to destroy the stereotype of a researcher, and use the natural curiosity of children to allow them to discover research as a profession that makes it possible to continue exploring the world as a grown-up. That discussion gave rise to the idea of a children’s book. A book that doesn’t talk about what the researchers do now, but about how they were as children.”

Sara Liin.Sara Liin.The book has been published by Fri Tanke and can be ordered from internet bookstores. At Swedish internet bookstore Bokus, Forskardrömmar reached the top of the most sold list in this age group, even before it had been released.
“The publisher is responsible for a certain amount of marketing, and the Academy is also working to reach the target group. One of the possibilities we are investigating is to apply for money to allow all school libraries to receive a copy”, says Sara Liin. She herself plans to spread the book by giving it as a present to children in her circle of friends.

“Children are curious: they see opportunities and not barriers. I hope that the book will give children self-confidence, a hope and a dream that stay alive as they grow up”, says Sara Liin.

The Young Academy of Sweden

The Young Academy of Sweden is an interdisciplinary academy for a selection of the most prominent, younger researchers in Sweden. Its operations rest on four pillars: internationalisation, outreach, science policy, and transdisciplinarity. The Academy is an independent platform that provides younger researchers with a strong voice in the science policy debate and that promotes science and research, often focussing on children and young adults. In the Academy young researchers meet across institutional and disciplinary borders to discuss research and research-related topics. The Young Academy of Sweden was formed at the initiative of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 2011 and has about 35 members.

Translated by George Farrants

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