STEAM Interview with Dr. Wesley Swingley from NIU!

Sep 10, 2020 | Kids, News, STEAM Adventures

Do you love Legos? Well, so does Dr. Swingley! Read on to find out all about astrobiology, microbes, and the great kinds of books that Dr. Swingley loves to read.

What is your name? 

Wesley Swingley 

What is your job title and where do you work? 

Associate Professor in Biological Sciences at NIU 

What do you do for a living? 

I look at microbes that live in the natural environment. My research is on a huge number of topics, including microbes in soil, but also those in hot springs and imagining what might live on other planets and moons. I consider myself an astrobiologist, someone who looks at all aspects of life that may develop on any planet. 

If someone is interested in your line of work, what should they do to achieve their desired outcome? Is there a certain field of study or certain experiences that they should strive for? 

My work is biology, but the field of astrobiology is very diverse, and many people come at the same problems from geology, chemistry, physics, and lots of other areas of science. I earned my PhD in graduate school as a way to really dig into my topic, but many people go straight out of college or get a Master’s degree in graduate school. 

With regards to your work, what is the most amazing or exciting thing you have ever discovered, learned, or created? 

The thing that makes me most excited is that I’ve been able to connect my lifelong interest in space and life in the universe with my study of microbiology. It’s given me the opportunity to meet all sorts of amazing, diverse people who are all equally as excited about space research. 

Note from Miss Julie: Here are some pictures of Dr. Swingley’s students in the field. Science sure looks like fun!

What are your hobbies? Do you like comic books, manga, music, scifi? Sewing or art? Tell us what you like! 

I like reading, watching TV and movies, listening to music, playing board games, building models and construction projects, and playing racquetball and rollerblading. I have always loved fantasy and scifi and have read many comics and manga in these areas. 

Tell us something fun about yourself! A silly story, a fun thing you have done, or something you are proud of… what would you like the children and families of DeKalb to know? 

I have too many hobbies. I really like learning and diving into new things, so I am always excited to try something new. I never gave up my excitement to play with toys and models, and being a scientist sometimes feels like I get to play for a living. 

Do you have a favorite section in the library to read or find books? What is your favorite memory of time spent in the library? 

I have always gravitated toward science fiction and fantasy. The amazing fictional worlds I have discovered there have kept my imagination going my entire life. 

Please list your favorite book (or books!) from when you were a child. Why did you love this book so much and how old were you when you read it? 

The Sword of Shannara is a book I read multiple times. It was such a cool book and an introduction to a much larger series that had lots of depth, dark messages, and exciting hopeful finales. I also got to meet the author, Terry Brooks, at a convention on my birthday and he was super nice. It was a pretty amazing birthday! 

Terry Brooks, author of The Sword of Shannara. Did you know that he was born in Illinois?

What genre do you like to read now that you are an adult? Do you have a favorite author? 

I read more science fiction as an adult and not so much fantasy. Peter F. Hamilton is probably my current favorite author, and he has a pretty expansive universe that is very fun to discover. 

If families wanted to see the work that you have done or read a book or research paper that you have written, where would they go to view your work?

Note from Miss Julie: Dr. Swingley’s website is a great place to spend some time! The pictures are interesting, and the writing is understandable for kids, especially if a parent is exploring the site with them. I encourage you to take a look.

Thank you, Dr. Swingley, for taking the time to share your work with us!

If you would like to delve into some Science Fiction yourself, check these titles out from the DeKalb Public Library.

If you would like to see what we have in the Fantasy genre, take a look at these books.

If Ebooks or audiobooks are more to your liking, take a look at what Hoopla has to offer for science fiction and fantasy.



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