Dr. Nicole Garneau is the curator of health science at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. In 2009 Dr. Garneau launched the Genetics of Taste Lab, a community science space dedicated to bridging the divide between research and the public. She is also the founder of three independent food companies and the proud mother of a four-year-old.
Was there a moment that you knew you wanted to be a scientist?
Absolutely. I’m a total nerd (#nerdlife). I knew I wanted to be a geneticist sophomore year of high school when we learned about Rosalind Franklin and the Human Genome Project. I knew I wanted to be a person who made discoveries. Genetics is this huge, amazing, mystery that caught my interest and my passion and never let go.
What was it about Rosalind Franklin that appealed to you?
Her story appealed to me because she did not get the Nobel prize with Watson and Crick, and yet it was her X-ray crystallography that was the key [to discovering the structure of DNA]. So it’s an interesting story of a woman having a huge impact and then not getting credit. Our victories and our strengths are built off the shoulders of these women who did not get credit for a lot of things the way that they should have.
What is community science?
Community science is a way to have shared ownership over somethings that no one owns. Just because I am a scientists that doesn’t mean that I own science. We define community science as open spaces in the crowdsourcing realm. [That means] being able to see a lab on display 364 days a year, participating via crowdsourcing if you are a guest in the museum, all the way through community scientists who are basically alongside myself and other professional scientists doing the real work.
Did you ever have any doubts that community science would work as a model for the Genetics of Taste lab?
I happen to have two X chromosomes so I doubt myself pretty much all the time. I didn’t have a guide book. It’s not like I could look at anyone else to do this. Every step along the way I doubted myself, and every morning you wake up and say: “Either I’m going to quit or I’m going to keep going.” And obviously I kept going, because we’re at out ten year anniversary!
How has being a food scientists rubbed off on your daughter?
My sister took her out to Panera the other day, and my sister said that the guy behind the counter almost spit out his drink because he said “Do you guys want treats?” and Georgia said “No, I have to have my protein and vegetables first before I have sugar.” So her taste scientist/food scientists/health curator mother is in her, and I am super proud when she talks about science!