Middle school is a strange time for many (most?!) students – think back and unblock those memories. We’ve all been there. Remember feeling self-conscious to try new things all the while dealing with the surge of hormones taking over your mind, body and T-zone?

In addition to being the time when you were at the peak of personal awkwardness, middle school was quite likely the time when – especially if you are now a scientist or engineer or science teacher or science enthusiast – your interest in science was piqued.

Middle school is an important stepping off point in science education. It’s a time for discovery – about the process of science and also about one’s self. It’s why our Students Discover project is so intensely focused on engaging middle school students in real scientific research.

We want middle school students all over North Carolina and the world to see themselves as scientists. We want them to see some part of themselves in the scientists they meet and interact with.

And so it’s in this spirit that we’re launching a new feature on the blog: Before They Were Scientists. We’re asking the scientists on our team to reveal their middle school selves to the world: to students, teachers, and (shudder) colleagues.

We asked them to reflect on the fun, the awkwardness, and any budding passion for science they possessed at an early age. We asked them to give themselves some advice, and to think back on what it meant to be involved in science between the ages of 10 and 14.

We hope that some of these stories resonate with you, and if you’re a teacher or parent, you feel compelled to share these stories with your students and children. Today, we present our first installment in the series with a profile of Nyeema Harris. Over the coming weeks, stay tuned for more stories of scientists Before They Were Scientists.