Human beings are driven by curiosity and a desire to understand our lives and our world more thoroughly. Nicole Garneau, a geneticist at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, has taken that thirst for knowledge and has made it her life. “Science changes,” she believes “because the technologies and the methods we use to study science get better.” We caught up with her about her research and work at DMNS and are now even more excited for her talk on April 16th at [email protected]     Tell us a little about your background. I grew up in Maine and my first job was on my grandfather’s lobster boat. When I was a sophomore in high school, I had a teacher who told me about the human genome project and it blew my mind that we didn’t know everything. After that, it was then about how I could make discoveries and I was sold on science. I really wanted to be a geneticist because that’s where I knew the discoveries were. That’s how I decided on Rutgers because they had a Genetics Major option. My love for it continued to grow and afterwards, I was a little tired. I did other things before I went to grad school including working on my best friend’s dry bean farm and a motorcycle shop. These really taught me work ethic and administrative skills. Then I got bored and looked at programs involving genetics and I decided upon CSU. When I graduated, I knew I didn’t want to be an academic scientist, and a friend showed me the posting for the position that I am in now.   That’s quite the story! So then what sparked your interest in taste, food choices, and diet? We decided to study taste so that we could teach people about genetics. Genetics is not tangible, but taste is something you experience every day. Through taste, we can make genetics fun, personable, and accessible to your life. Our educational goal is that you learn about genetics and at first I didn’t know anything about taste. Now, I love talking about taste and learning about it.   Could you tell me a little more about the Genetics of Taste Lab? It is a community-based lab. The idea is that 364 days a year can see what a lab looks like. The fishbowl setting allows people to see a space they might never have access to and that you can be a part of this research.  People can participate and learn a lot about themselves while giving us really good data we can use.   Are there other body processes you are interested in besides taste? I’ve got a seed of an idea percolating about what the human experience looks like in the environment. That could be micro-based or out in nature. I want to make the whole human physiological experience accessible and fun. Nothing should be locked behind any elite doors.   How can we make better food choices based on what we find most enjoyable to eat? If we make it personal and we make it fun so that we are inciting your curiosity, you’re going to take that knowledge with you. I give you that perspective so that you can use it yourself in whatever way you want. If we can understand the genetics behind how taste works then we can open up an entire field of personalized nutritional choices.   Tell us more about Yo Pearl the Science Girl. I realized I wanted to have the voice of someone who was fun in science. It’s not about making science cool; it’s about cool-ifying science. Science IS cool and now we’re just going to show how cool it is. Science is totally fun and there’s a scientist in everyone. Making her a woman was a way to inspire more women and girls to pursue STEM. It was all about making a fun, community voice coming from a woman.   And what about Skirts in Science? Skirts in Science was myself and at the time the only other female curator here and our conservator Jude Southward. We were at an event that was celebrating women in scientific careers and we wanted to make a community for those women.   So, how can we get even more women involved in STEM professions? I do think that the stats show that there needs to be more visibility for women who are already in STEM. A lot of the reason why students pick certain careers is whom they can see as their role models. Million Women Mentors is a new campaign for women where they can pledge to mentor and I’ve pledged to volunteer and I now teach about 20-30 women and girls a year about science specifically. I started a peer sponsorship group where we meet once a month over dinner to keep each other on track.   If you weren’t a geneticist, what would you be? I would be doing something where I can camp three months a year, whatever that is.   What’s something few people know about you? Before I give a talk, I do one of two things. I either listen to a playlist I created called “Nicki Get Psyched Up,” or I google “Eddie Izzard Lego.”