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Breaking Through the Spiral Ceiling: An American Woman Becomes a DNA Scientist Paperback – January 21, 2011

4.8 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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5.0 out of 5 stars
Inspirational memoir: a good read!
Hoopes' writing is engaging, humorous, and insightful. The story of her path from student to scientist will keep you captivated from cover to cover.
 
--Amazon.com review by hardin47

Above all else the work took this reader on a journey with the author, as she made discoveries about herself, as she grew and changed as a result of her decisions and life choices.
 
--Suzannah Burke on Sooze Says Things blog

"The author reflects on how her early excitement about science was often quashed by arbitrary rules and outright discrimination... a selection in the book that resonates with me...is the description of how Hoopes was torn by conflicting responsibilities--to a sick child and to the students in her class.  In short, this book is... the telling of personal and professional struggles and successes that women readers, old and young, will find poignant."  (BioScience (Anne Rosenwald), October, 2011 "Women on the Verge of a Glass-ceiling Breakdown.")
   

"...a book highlighting her remarkable path in science over the past 50 yr. In this fascinating memoir, you will find the story of a woman in science, drawn with wonder into the biosciences, specifically the study of DNA and aging. ...She tried to "have it all," refusing to choose career over a healthy personal life, and writes openly about the challenges associated with such a decision," from Cell Biology Education--Life Sciences Education   (Jay Brewster) "A Life in Science," vol 10, pp237-8 (2011).

"Hoopes sets out to determine how and why she did not become one of the "missing female science professors at Harvard," (p V) and instead finds that she has written a memoir of a woman coming of age in the late 1950s and experiencing the molecular biology revolution first-hand at all levels of her scientific career....Interwoven with the scientific and educational training is a narrative about marriage and family and her studies of gerontology and the larger scientific questions in that field," from Journal of the History of Biology (Kyle McLea) vol 45, pp 357-360 (2012).
  

From the Author

A memoir about a young woman going into science in the 1960s and 1970s, Breaking Through the Spiral Ceiling shows how fast the welcome has improved for women in science, how hard it was to face down outright discrimination, but how worthwhile it was for Laura Hoopes.  She made a life combining family and scientific discoveries and enjoyed it thoroughly.  

Writing the book stymied Hoopes for a while because she, like most scientists, was trained to write in passive voice and avoid personal pronouns and displays of emotion.  Obviously, she had a lot to unlearn, but through numerous writing classes and critique groups, including the now defunct Memoir Cafe and the ongoing Libby Grandy critique group in Montclair, CA, she learned to write more exciting and interesting prose.  Now she's in an MFA Creative Writing program at SDSU.
Other than a text book (Genetics: A Molecular Approach, Macmillan, 1981, Laura L Mays), this is the first book Laura has published.  She finds it exciting to talk with people about writing memoir, about her experiences in science, about recreating a career when over 65, and about how the US could increase the success of women in science.  
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: lulu.com (January 21, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0557923204
  • ISBN-13: 978-0557923205
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,109,231 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Spiral Ceilings isn't just about women in science. It's about each of us trying to be the person we think we should be; about all the hurdles that change our direction; and about the power that comes from realizing we've each become exactly the person we want to be. An uplifting read for anyone whose path is unclear.

Hoopes' writing is engaging, humorous, and insightful. The story of her path from student to scientist will keep you captivated from cover to cover. A good read.
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I was a little apprehensive about reading this as I have very little knowledge or interest in the world of scientific research or study. But I found the book to be very interesting and easy for a non-science person to read and throughly enjoy. Her ways of dealing with the slow downs or do not tread signs are an inspiration to all people who are told "thats not for you", but they are not stopped from doing it (either women or men). She deals with the obstacles in a gracious manner and moves on to the next challenge. I can not imagine my self being as gracious to the school system when they suggest that her son is not up to snuff in his english language skills, and in reality he is further along than they can imagine. She supports him and her students with grace and her whole heart. A very gracious lady who is a wonderful example for us all and a very interesting book even if I don't "get" all of the scientific language
Would recomend
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Format: Paperback
Laura L. Mays Hoopes has written a memoir that gives a personal face to the struggles of women in the world of science. Although Breaking Through the Spiral Ceiling is a serious study of the inequities of the sexes, Hoopes writes about her life as a scientist and professor with good-natured humor.

For example, during her sophomore year at college, one of her part-time jobs was beheading frozen fruit flies. Hoopes writes, "I must admit, at times, when I was frustrated, I dubbed these flies with the names of certain professors, just before relieving them of their heads."

Her scientific journey is fascinating, but her personal journey is just as inspirational. Her first husband died at the age of forty-three, leaving her with a four-year-old son to raise alone. To fill the void in her life and support her son, she focused on her scientific career and wrote a genetics textbook published by Macmillan in 1981. When she met her present husband, he supported her passion for science, and they shared a love of Celtic culture, music and literature. A daughter born several years later completed their family.

Hoopes is a pathfinder for all those young women who choose science as their professional career. This absorbing, honest memoir chronicles a balanced, successful life.
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I can definitely relate to Laura Hoopes memoir, Breaking the Spiral Ceiling: An American Woman Becomes A DNA Scientist (March 2011). She and I grew up at the same time, and we both entered careers in the scientific and engineering world. We also both experienced the inequities between men and women that abounded in that world. Though I am not a trained scientist as Laura (Laura got her Ph.D from Yale), I worked as a technical writer, editor and proposal manager in the aerospace industry and trained many scientists and engineers to write.

However, Laura is not a scientist who needs writing help. Her memoir is easy to read even for non-scientists like myself, and her voice is humorous and friendly. Not only does she tell the struggles of moving up the spiral ladder in her scientific world, she shares her life as a wife and mother. During that time if woman wanted to make it in the "man's world," she had to prove herself way more than her male colleagues. Plus, she couldn't let her life outside of work interfere or take precedence over her professional endeavors. Laura's book is so inspiring, because she shows how she was able to do it all. In fact, she is still doing it as a professor at Pomona College in Claremont, California.

Unfortunately, many professional women are still struggling with inequities in the workplace. For those who are I recommend the lessons and inspiration in this book.
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Laura Hoopes tells us her life story in Breaking Through the Spiral Ceiling that is similar to so many women of her time and still to many women today. If you are expecting a flaming feminist report on the unfairness of women's treatment in academia, then you've come to the wrong place. Her story is not riddled with blame but a play-by-play interpretation of her quest as an intelligent and motivated young woman of the 1960s who fought to reach her goal of becoming a DNA scientist. She tells us about the snubs and betrayals, but we are not invited to see bitterness and anger. Instead, Hoopes invites us to take a look at what kind of person her journey has molded her in to. And, the humor and gentleness in explaining complex biological concepts shows that Hoopes found her niche as a teacher and mentor to her students. It's that insightfulness that makes this a charming read. Breaking Through the Spiral Ceiling should be required reading for every young woman to see that they are standing on the shoulders of women who fought the first battles of having a career, family, friendships, and love despite the trials they faced and came out with battle scars but still hopeful and still smiling.
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