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Story Collider: When science complicates home and family

The reason someone chooses to pursue science can be complicated. For Samuel Achilefu, a cancer researcher at the Washington University School of Medicine, his interest in science can be traced back to a traumatic childhood. At the Story Collider’s most recent live taping in St. Louis, he described growing up in Nigeria during the 1960s, when civil war forced him and his family to leave their home and spend years looking for a safe place to live.

Since they left behind many belongings, including his toys, 5-year-old Achilefu and other refugee children passed the time by using trash to try to build a car, which fell apart as soon as he tried to ride it. Those early experiences of creating something positive at a time when he had nothing molded him into an inventor who develops technologies that help doctors fight cancer.

In June, Achilefu and four others took the stage at the Story Collider’s “Homing Signals” event about how science forced them to rethink what home means. A couple storytellers shared challenging experiences with family members. Others talked about going to places outside of their comfort zone, whether that was a forest in Papua New Guinea or a simulated Mars mission in Hawaii.

This year’s final Story Collider show in St. Louis will take place Oct. 4 at The Ready Room. The lineup will be announced this month. If you have a personal science story you’d like to share for a future show, send a one or two-paragraph pitch to stories@storycollider.org.

Cancer researcher Samuel Achilefu tries to make his own fun during a time of war and conflict

Journalist Shula Neuman returns home when her mother is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease

Physician Sheyna Gifford learns of a death in the family while on a one-year simulated Mars mission

Biologist Samoa Asigau accidentally trespasses into tribal territory in her home country

Follow Eli Chen on Twitter: @StoriesByEli

Eli is the science and environment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.