Jen O’Keefe is a coal petrographer, which means she is a detailed geologist. She posts on Twitter, and often posts microscope pictures of fungus and microorganisms.
I didn’t find Jen O’Keefe when I was researching my books. I found her through the posts of a totally blind friend who was a student of hers. They carried on great conversations on Twitter, and sometimes, I wanted to join in. One of the greatest things about Jen O’Keefe isn’t her abilities at science. It is her ability to include everyone when teaching science to her students. Although my blind friend presented with challenges to the classroom and teachers who may not have had a positive experience with successful blind students, they both learned much from each other. My blind friend, and her guide dog, weren’t left out of any activity.
I know this doesn’t sound like much to be grateful for. However, twenty-five years ago, my geology professor had no use for women in the classroom. He barely tolerated me. And I could see and hear then. If my blind friend had entered his classroom, he would have called campus security to escort her out. And the words he would have said in class would have not been repeatable.
Jen O’Keefe has encouraged me to believe in myself. That my words can reach and help others want to learn science no matter their disability or background. There will always be someone who is willing to take the time to reach out help. With the internet, our chances of finding that person are far more likely. I hope my novels bring the same hope someone who doesn’t believe they can do it.