Tags: Science, STEAM

STEAM Interview with Professor Jennifer Koop

Jul 28, 2020 | News, STEAM Adventures

The Children’s Department warmly welcomes Dr. Jennifer Koop this week, and thanks her for this fascinating interview. We hope you enjoy reading all about Dr. Koop’s research and her favorite books as much as we did. And… wait until you see the snail eggs!

What is your name? 

Jennifer Koop 

What is your job title and where do you work? 

Assistant Professor of Biology, Northern Illinois University 

What do you do for a living? 

Part of my job is to study how and why parasites, like ticks and lice, are so good at their job. Another part of my job is to teach college students about biology. 

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? 

To be a professor you have to go to school for a long time, but the good news is that it gets more and more fun as you do. You have to work hard and study a lot of science and math. But it isn’t just about school. You should also spend time enjoying the outdoors. Take nature walks, play with your pet, draw a tree, or jump in a puddle and see what you stirred up. The cool part about biology is that it includes all of the living things you see around you every day. 

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

I have been very lucky with my job. I am able to do research in some very cool places, including the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador. While there, I’ve helped to understand the biology of a fly that is harming Darwin’s finches. The fly isn’t supposed to be on the islands and my research is helping find ways to get rid of it so that we can protect the finches. 

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

I love all kinds of crafts. I sew, knit, draw, and generally just love creating new things. I also love being outside, whether its running, walking, birding, or biking. I have two little girls that keep me busy with other fun stuff, like puzzles, sidewalk chalk, bubbles, and every version of make-believe play you can imagine. I love reading with my girls and on my own. 

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? 

One of the things I do research with is snails and a parasitic worm they have. When birds eat infected snails, they can get really sick. Since I’ve studied these snails for almost 5 years now, I thought I knew a lot about them. However, my 5-year-old schooled me the other day when she told me snails have teeth. I was convinced she was wrong until she showed me the book she had been reading. It turns out that snails don’t just have teeth, they can have thousands of teeth!! My daughter then informed me that I should probably do a little more reading myself (hahaha). Nothing like a 5-year-old to keep a college professor in her place. 

“A picture of a rock with lots of invasive faucet snails.  The slimy things next to the snails are their eggs. The rock is literally covered in snail eggs!”

quote from Dr. Koop that explains the gooey lumpiness in the photo.

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 love the children’s book section of our library. My favorite stories are fiction. My favorite memory of time spent in the library was when I was a kid. We had an estimation jar at our library. Each week it was filled with something different (like jelly beans or paper clips) and you had to guess how many things were in the jar. If you guessed correctly you got a special bookmark. I still remember the week that I won and got to collect my sparkly pink bookmark with a purple ribbon. I still have the bookmark! 

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? 

I was obsessed with Roald Dahl as a kid. I love everything he wrote, from “James and the Giant Peach” to “BFG” to “The Witches.” Although, “Witches” scared me half to death as a kid, I still read these books whenever I want a fun story. I loved “Ramona Quimby” by Beverly Cleary and all the books in that series. I also love all of the Harry Potter books, which I’ve reread long after being a child. 

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

I tend to enjoy fiction, but a wide diversity of genres within fiction. I can’t say I have a favorite author, but I have a few books I’ve read (or reread) recently that I think are fantastic (for very different reasons). “Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi, “The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate” by Jacqueline Kelly, and “Julie and Julia” by Julie Powell. 

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?

Thank you very much, Dr. Koop, for taking the time to talk with us!

If you would like to read any of Dr. Koop’s favorite childhood books, here are the links that will help you get them.

Books by Roald Dahl can be found in two places.

Ramona Quimby books may be found at the DeKalb Public Library.
Audiobooks about Ramona Quimby may be found by going to Hoopla.

Harry Potter books may be checked out from the library by visiting this link.
Hoopla also has a wide variety of Harry Potter items to choose from in various formats.



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