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Cool scientists refuse to stand by and let a girl be bullied for her love of bugs.

Former and current bug girls, you've got an awesome newbie joining your ranks.

Cool scientists refuse to stand by and let a girl be bullied for her love of bugs.

Nicole Spencer can't remember a time when her 7-year-old daughter Sophia wasn't in love with bugs

Sophia thrilled over her caterpillars. Image courtesy of Nicole Spencer.

Ever since she could crawl, Sophia's mission in life has been to find bugs and learn everything there is to know about them, Nicole says. She is fascinated by how bugs move and eat, and she loves that they seem to scare most people.


"All she talks about is bugs," Nicole says. "She wants a spider comforter."

Sophia with her bug catchers. Image courtesy of Nicole Spencer.

Thankfully, growing up in in Sarnia, Ontario, Sophia had a like-minded best friend who loved searching for bugs with her.

Together, the girls called themselves "The Bug Hunters," and they'd use their dollar-store bug nets to catch different bugs and bring them home for Nicole to look up online.

Sophia caught herself with her bug net. Image courtesy of Nicole Spencer.

But when they moved 10 hours away, Sophia found herself without a bug-loving BFF, going to school with kids who instead teased her mercilessly for her obsession.

Sophia as a ladybug. Image courtesy of Nicole Spencer.

She was called "weird" and other less kind names, Nicole says. None of the other kids at school wanted to play with her, and Nicole watched as her once-bubbly, curious little girl would come home in tears, begging her mom not to send her back.

Nicole tried talking to Sophia's teachers, but to no avail. According to Nicole, the teachers told her that teasing is a part of going to school, and that Sophia needed to learn to stick up for herself.

Those conversations left Nicole feeling frustrated and disillusioned with the school system, but she wasn't about to leave it at that.

Afraid this bullying would deter her daughter from pursuing the thing she loves most, Nicole decided to call in some backup — namely, the Entomology Society of Canada.

Nicole reached out to the powers that be there to see if they could connect her with an entomologist who could tell Sophia she's "totally cool for liking bugs."

The response she received was beyond encouraging — it was overwhelming.

Within a day, messages began pouring in from entomologists, scientists and other bug enthusiasts from all over the world.

Turns out, "weird" bug girls grow up into awesome women — all of whom wanted to reassure Sophia that she was in good company.

Moms of other little bug girls responded too, asking if Sophia would want a pen pal to discuss bugs with.

According to Nicole, Sophia didn't even know women could be entomologists. Now she has over 80 messages of support and encouragement from entomologists all over the world, 54 of whom are women. Sophia plans to hang the letters all over her room so she never forgets she has an army of bug-loving friends standing behind her.

When Sophia goes to school now, she knows that no matter what she hears from other kids, it's totally cool to love bugs.

Sophia with her grasshoppers. Image courtesy of Nicole Spencer.

"I can’t even describe how it makes you feel as a parent to know that all these people are encouraging your kid. I think it helps her see that everything I’ve been telling her is true. There are other bug lovers out there," says Nicole.

And pretty soon, Sophia will be making her mark on the bug world alongside them. #BugsR4Girls

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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