Friday, February 27, 2015

Maria Skłodowska-Curie - The Creative Scientist

Maria Skłodowska-Curie was born in Warsaw, Poland on November 7, 1867.  She was one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century. 

Maria Skłodowska-Curie

Maria Skłodowska-Curie let her passion direct her way and she broke through societal norms becoming the FIRST....

  • Woman in Europe to receive her doctorate in science

  • Woman to win a Noble Prize for Physics (in 1903 for the discovery of radio activity)

  • Person to use the term "radioactivity"

  • Person to receive two Nobel Prizes (the second one was in Chemistry for her discovery and isolation of pure radium in 1911)

  • Woman professor and head of Laboratory in Sorbonne University in Paris

  • Mother with a Nobel Prize to raise a daughter who also won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935
  • Women to be laid to rest under the dome of Pantheon in Paris

Maria Skłodowska-Curie

She managed to do all this keeping in mind:

“Life is not easy for any of us.  But what of it? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves.  We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thinks must be attained” – Maria Curie Skłodowska

Maria Skłodowska-Curie grew up in Poland with her mother and father.  Her Father was a teacher of mathematics and physics; however he got fired by his Russian supervisor for pro-Polish sentiments.  Maria witnessed her family get degraded due to their strong held national pride and Catholic beliefs.  In 1891, Maria moved to France to pursue her studies.  There she met Pierre Curie with whom she shared the love for physics and chemistry.  Their passion for physics and chemistry grew into a love for one another; they saw that together they would be able to be partners and scientific collaborators.  
Maria Skłodowska-Curie and Pierre Curie

Maria and Pierre were both teachers; however, their passion was research.  The school would not sponsor Maria’s research, so she turned a shed that was formally a medical school dissecting room with no ventilation or waterproof ability, into her laboratory.  Maria did not let anything stop her.  Her intrinsic motivation propelled far beyond and adversity she was faced with.  
She said, “One of our pleasured was to enter our workshop at night; then, all around us, we would see the luminous silhouettes of the beakers and capsules that contained our products.” - Maria Skłodowska-Curie This was her love; she saw the great beauty within her work.

Maria studied two uranium minerals, pitchblende and torbernite.  She saw that pitchblende was four times as active as uranium and concluded there must be another substance that was more active then uranium present.  She dedicated most of her time for this study, which was not done before.  This was possible due to her ability of divergent thinking.  She would not force inspiration; she would think of many possibilities and try to see which one works. 

“Her research idea was her own; no one helped her formulate in, and although she took it to her husband for his opinion she clearly established her ownership of it.”- Reid

Maria Skłodowska-Curie and Pierre Curie

During this time many physicists were in a race to publish their finding, as to be the first to discover something.  Maria had this sense of extrinsic motivation to be the first to publish about their findings.  In July1898, Maria and her husband published paper announcing the existence of a new element; polonium.  She named it in honor of her native country Poland.  In December of that same year she published a paper about the existence of radium.  She was thrilled about finally discovering the hidden element.  She knew that there was still work to be done. She said, “One never notices what has been done; one can only see what remain to be done." – Maria Skłodowska-Curie

They did not however patent their discovery, and therefore, did not financially benefit from their discovery. She did win a Nobel Prize for it in 1903, and she used the prize money on furthering her research and feeding her passion for it.  In 1910 Maria succeeded in isolation radium for which she won another Nobel Prize in 1911. 

Throughout her life she had two daughters and she devoted herself to her family.
The Graduate Student Cook Book has this quote about her:

“Marie Curie: Overachiever who cooked, cleaned, discovered radium, and raised a Nobel Prize-winning daughter, but who never forgot how to make a good pierogi” – The Graduate Student Cookbook
This quote really encompassed her love for research, family, and Poland. She lived her life as a true women, mother, wife, and scientist.  She also enjoyed conversations with other scientists, one of which was Albert Einstein.
Maria Skłodowska-Curie and Albert Einstein

Maria Skłodowska-Curie and Albert Einstein

Maria was very well known and very humble person, Albert Einstein once said:

“Marie Curie is, of all celebrated beings, the one whom fame has not corrupted” -Albert Einstein

Maria Skłodowska-Curie
Maria's creativity and ability of divergent thinking allowed her to discover things that other scientist were not able to.  She had a strength that caused her to never give up and to passionately work on her discoveries. She has inspired me greatly, and I know she will continue to inspire many women scientists. 
 “Nothing in life is to be feared.  It is only to be understood.” 
–Maria Skłodowska-Curie

Other useful links:  

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Detouring from the Business Path: Andrew Mason

Andrew Mason is not a businessman. Although he was the founder and CEO of Groupon, Mason clearly did not fit the bill of a company leader. He is now moving on to his next big idea.

Andrew Mason, founder and former CEO of Groupon

Mason graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in music. He worked on web design and at a recording studio, and has probably been referred to as a “goofball” more times than any other Chief Executive of a public company. He even released a rock album of – get this – motivational work music called Hardly Workin’. But Andrew Mason ended up as a CEO (until he was fired in 2013) because he happened to have a great idea, some luck, and some great connections.

In his article “Creativity: Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention,” Csikszentmihalyi refers to the humility of many creatives, as they are typically aware of the role that luck played in their success. Andrew Mason seems like a great example of this creative type, and he particularly came to mind because of his recent remark being taken out of context. The Seattle Times ran a piece about Andrew Mason’s next creative project called Detour, a walking tour app. The reporter for the article included a soundbite from Mason:  
“Without sounding bitter, Mason looks back on Groupon as a “stupid, boring idea that just happened to resonate.” He no longer dwells on what went wrong at the company.”

Now, media outlets from across the country are talking about how Mason, Groupon’s founder, thinks it was a stupid idea. Mason himself took to his own website to discuss how his quote was mischaracterized. I believe that all he was really trying to say to the Seattle Times reporter was exactly what Csikszentmihalyi thinks many creators do: accept that luck played a role in their success. Mason’s idea itself was simple, and with powerful friends he had the resources to make it happen. Csikszentmihalyi also credits many creatives with the ability to be objective and passionate about their work at the same time. Before Mason was fired from his position at Groupon, he was known to work behind the scenes at some small businesses to better understand how they run. He had a natural curiosity for the industry and a thirst for more knowledge to better support his concept.

Mason’s next creative move is his app called Detour. While travelling abroad with his wife, Andrew Mason found it difficult to establish a substitute for tours that stick you with a big group of people schlepping around to the typical touristy hot spots. His app of unconventional audio tours is created for travelers so the travel destination can open up right in front of you. The app is location-based and verbally directs you to your next spot. Ideally, tourists will be visiting the hidden gems without even needing to use a map.

So is Andrew Mason a Big C Creative? Probably not. But he is a creative nonetheless. Creativity is (a) novel and (b) appropriate. Andrew Mason’s Detour app is something new and original – while there may be mobile tour apps in existence, his is supposed to be the only one that uses Bluetooth to connect multiple users and has a more story-telling aspect to the non-touristy locations – and it addresses a problem of mundane tours with unmotivated audio tracks that don’t go at the traveler’s pace.

With a multi-billion dollar corporation and a unique soundtrack under his belt, I'm curious to see what Andrew Mason has in store.


Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996). Creativity: Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention. New York: Harper/Collins. – Chapter 3

Liedtke, Michael. "Groupon Founder Turns to Developing Audio-tour App." The Seattle Times. 8 Feb. 2015. Web. 10 Feb. 2015.

Hula Hoops and the Search for a Cure

Last year, Loyola University Chicago got a new student run organization. Mid way through the Fall semester of 2013 LOOP was born. It is an interest/athletic/performance club centered around hula hoop dancing and fostering the hooping community at Loyola. The Club has three founders, a semi-professional hoop dance performer, a rhythmic gymnast, and an avid hooper who also happens to be a P.R. genius and social butterfly.
While the founding of the club was a success in itself I think the most important part of the club is what it does for its members. Hoop dancing is an incredible creative outlet that allows the dancer to flow with the music but also build a relationship with an object that becomes a extension of the body. The dancer's relationship with the hula hoop strengthens their balance, coordination, awareness of their body in space. They take a child's play toy and turn it into a tool for artistic expression that in my opinion, beautifies the dance and adds a type of grace that can be lacking from a lot of  choppier modern dances.
The club does something that is unique from most other student organizations on Loyola's campus. It takes the athleticism one needs to be able to dance, combines that with the niche interest of learning how to do tricks with a hula hoop, and pushes these two themes together by performing at events and talent shows. While all of those three themes are meshing together the club goes one step further by building a community on campus for its members to support and encourage each other.
In its short life-span the club has performed for a few different events on campus as well as some service events in the neighboring communities. Most recently, a few members of the club went to a local youth program to preform for the kids and then spent some time after to teach the kids some hoop dancing basics. Also for the second year in a row the club will be preforming at Loyola's Relay for Life where all of the proceeds go to help find a cure for cancer.
Last semester, the club was having issues with retaining its members. The idea of becoming proficient at this up and coming form of art is very enticing for many, but the lack of structure made it difficult for new members to make a habit of coming to meetings. The club's leadership did not take this setback to heart and began looking for way to keep new members interested and involved. Since I have a few friends in the club and am dating one of the founders I offered my opinion, as an outsider, on how to keep members interested. The club decided to add more structure to the group by adding weekly lessons to their meetings. So far this semester, the lessons have helped new members pick up the foreign art form and they seem to be getting more out of the club too. (1)
Like many forms of artistic expression hoop dancing has allowed the members to express their feelings in ways they may not have previously been able to. It is also a great workout which provides a rush of endorphins. When you couple those two with the great sense of the community the club provides you are left with this wonderful service oriented club that not only allows people to stay in shape but express themselves and gain support from other members that have turned into friends.

(1) The club's leadership went through the steps to learn from a failure as proposed by Jonah Lehrer in the Wired magazine article.

Kendrick's Comic Connection

What it means to be a celebrity is changing. In the past, celebrities have represented an unobtainable ideal; they were society’s vision of the closest thing to a perfect person as a human could get. The new celebrity is different. Celebrities work to portray an image of relatability. They try to seem like the girl- or boy-next-door. Jennifer Lawrence has achieved this by tripping on the red carpet and giving very candid interviews. Her interviews often have comments regarding junk food and alcohol.

Anna Kendrick has taken a different approach. Social media has made celebrities and their lives more accessible to the general populations. Kendrick has taken advantage of this to raise her popularity. She uses Twitter to express her minute-to-minute thoughts, often to comedic effect. Her quips are unapologetically honest. Her tweets are something the average person can see themselves saying or thinking. Many celebrities use Twitter and other social media platforms to promote themselves and their work. Anna Kendrick tries to keep these type of business tweets to a minimum.

Kendrick’s tweets tend to center around dogs, Game of Thrones, hangovers, and loungewear. These topics are relevant to the everyday person, such as a fan. She even posted about meeting Beyoncé and fan-girling over the experience. She uses common language that resonates with her followers. Anna Kendrick’s followers can see themselves thinking the content of her tweets and often see Kendrick tweet something that they had already thought. She creatively combines honesty and comedy to gain her followers’ attention.

She has learned that her fans respond well to her when she tweets without thinking too much. Through her tweets, Kendrick has made a connection with her fans, who can show their appreciation through favorites or retweets. Celebrities owe their continuing careers to their fans. Anna Kendrick has taken a public platform and used it uniquely to connect with the source of her fame.

Kendrick says that she comes up with the tweets as she goes about her day. She constantly has drafts ready to post once she’s comfortable. Again, her tweets a relatable because them come to her so organically. She does not have a PR team or a script writer creating the jokes specifically to cater to her fans. Anna Kendrick is just sharing her personal thoughts, not knowing whether or not the tweets will be grasped as humorous.

View Anna Kendrick's Twiiter here:

Eells, J. (2014, May 12). Anna Kendrick. Retrieved February 10, 2015, from