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Despite her aversion to reporters, Elizabeth Zott from Lessons in Chemistry has agreed to answer a few personal questions for our readers.

If you could use three words to describe yourself, what would they be?

EZ: Carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen.

What advice would you give young women entering the science field today?

EZ: Invest in high quality finger-to-elbow rubber mitts. These will not only save you from unnecessary burns, but also prevent you from making endless pots of coffee for others who appear to be unaware that women are not biologically predisposed to perform servile tasks. Whether they know it or not, you will be doing them a favor. Office coffee is awful.

Bonnie Garmus Q&A

Elizabeth, how do you deal with sexism at work?

EZ: What I advocate is a thorough understanding of why sexism exists in the first place—which is to narrow the field of power and competition by gender; to rule others’ talents out using fabricated biological “facts.” This same fear-based strategy has given us racism, heterosexism, as well as several other isms. To counter this strategy, I simply use one word. No. Then I repeat it ad nauseum until the message is received.

What was it that drew you to the famous chemist, Calvin Evans? His reputation?

EZ: His beakers. But beyond that, it was also his respect for others’ ideas, his constant digging for answers, and his ability to admit mistakes. What makes a brilliant person brilliant isn’t some random twist of DNA—it’s their generosity to recognize others’ talents, and instead of feeling threatened by them, do whatever they can to take them further. He was also very fond of the hydrophilic nature of soap bubbles and because of it, always did the dishes.

Do you have a favorite bedtime story you read to your daughter, Mad?

EZ: Like all babies, she loved To Kill a Mockingbird, but lately she’s become fascinated with Nancy Drew. I think this is because Nancy never seems to go to school.

How do you relax in the evening?

EZ: My dog Six-Thirty and I go for a long walk. Having a friend with whom you can share your deepest secrets and saddest longings cannot not be underestimated.

Lessons in Chemistry is available online and at your local Dymocks store.

Lessons in Chemistry
Bonnie Garmus

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