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Story Collider: Five stories about dealing with tough challenges in science

Chanté Summers was expecting an uneventful day when she walked into her chemistry laboratory three years ago at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Instead, she found herself putting bandages on a bleeding labmate who caused an explosion after mishandling chemicals.

At the Story Collider’s “Uncharted Territory” show at the Ready Room this month, Summers and others shared stories about how they navigated challenges in their lives. Whether it was trying to protect a package of fruit flies on a flight to Hawaii or dealing with depression after surviving cancer, every storyteller talked about how they found empowerment through their experiences.

Summers wasn’t sure at first what she learned from the incident, other than that the laboratory’s first-aid kit was useless in helping her injured labmate. But in the weeks and months that followed, she realized that handling the explosion helped her feel more confident in her abilities as a scientist.

When she was in school, male classmates and professors made disparaging, sexist remarks to her that could have discouraged her from continuing to pursue chemistry. Ultimately, she got past all of that and shortly after graduating, landed successfully at her current position as a chemist at Pfizer.

The Story Collider’s St. Louis producers are still determining 2019 dates. But soon, the podcast will be establishing another home city close by: Chicago, in partnership with the Adler Planetarium. 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.

Below are five stories that were presented at the Ready Room in St. Louis on the evening of Oct. 4.

Chemist Chanté Summers takes charge of a laboratory explosion.

Science activist Cynthia Lloyd confronts personal challenges after surviving cancer.

Computer engineer LaShana Lewis fulfills a lifelong dream to go to space camp.

Psychotherapist Patricia Savant has to make an important delivery for NASA.

Conservationist Matt Fox takes over a failing expedition to save endangered bears in Ecuador.

Follow Eli on Twitter: @StoriesByEli

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