My STEM Spark

When I was in elementary school, I opened the World Book Encyclopedia and came upon an illustration of the hydrogen atom. I thought it was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen. I asked myself, how do people know this? How do they investigate something so small?

Though I spent the rest of my school years enjoying science, I didn’t have mentors or teachers who encouraged me to pursue it as a career. After I graduated college with an English degree, I saw a public television program about the discovery of neutron stars.

A neutron star’s gravitational pull is so massive that, if it were possible to drop something as light as a marshmallow onto one, it would liberate tons of energy. When I heard MIT Astrophysicist Paul Joss describe the impact of a marshmallow falling onto a neutron star, I was hooked. The next day, I went straight to nearby MIT and asked for a job. A simple confection helped spark my journey into science.

Here at the National Science Foundation, we believe those sparks can come from anywhere. That’s why we fund educational programs in formal learning environments, like classrooms, and through informal activities, like mentorships, summer schools, Citizen Science programs –and even public television programming.

What sparked your curiosity or interest in science, technology, engineering or math? We want you to share the stories of the teachers who encouraged you – the moment you witnessed something amazing and became determined to figure out how it happened – the time you took apart the vacuum cleaner or car engine to see how it worked.

Starting today, share your
story via video or text on Twitter or Instagram using #MySTEMspark and
encourage your peers to share their STEM spark moment by tagging them and
telling them you want to hear theirs. If you don’t have a Twitter account and
would like participate, please email us at, and we will
be delighted to share your story.