Maria Laskar is the creator of Professor Blue, a series that follows Professor Blue as she explores the science of the world around her. And this week, she is the subject of our batteryPOP creator interview!
batteryPOP: What got you excited about science when you were a kid?
Maria Laskar: When I was probably 8 or 9 years old, as a hobby, I collected caterpillars in an aquarium. I then waited and watched patiently for the metamorphosis of the caterpillars, their woven cocoons transformed into beautiful butterflies. That got me very excited about the wonders of science and life.
B: How did you decide to start making science videos?
ML: It was back in 2004, hanging out at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT, nerd-central) with my partner. I met a lot of scientists working on various projects, and I was curious enough to want to follow them around with my camera. Then I became curious about their outreach programs to children involving science.
B: How did you come up with Professor Blue?
ML: Well, back in 1991, I was working in Baghdad, Iraq as a journalist/photographer, just when the first Gulf war erupted. Then I fled that war, and grabbed the last plane out to Russia. Very soon I found out that the Soviet Union was being dissolved! And everywhere in Russia, just like in Baghdad, there was an extreme shortage of water and food. That whole experience is still with me.
So then in 2005 when I decided to film short video podcasts, I wanted to start with water. I teamed up with Professor Heidi Nepf at MIT, whose specialty is in Fluid Mechanics – the science of how water moves. This was strongly supported by the MIT Arts Council and MIT Earth System Initiative, especially Dr. Matt Gardner.
It was just natural, common sense, that my main character be called Professor Blue because of water, and blue being ‘the new green’.
B: How do you decide where Professor Blue will go next?
ML: Hmm, that is a very good question! I have always been a writer, theater director and videographer. My aim has always been to take Professor Blue to the big screen from my shorts or to kids’ television . We participated in every kids festival and programs we could find. I have even written books “Professor Blue Top Secret Lab Journal” in both French and English, at Amazon.com and distributed all over the world. Hopefully teaming up with batteryPop will give Professor Blue all that more exposure to kids around the globe and make my dream come true.
B: How do you pick the topics for the shows?
ML: Professor Blue probes the planet and usually follows disaster wherever it may arise. Be it water shortage, tsunami, floods, glaciers melting, etc. Her curiosity takes us through her journey as she shows us how we can make this world a better place to live.
B: What’s your favorite experiment?
ML: In the lab, I think “How to make Acid Rain?” is a good one.
Outside the lab, “Making a giant vinegar and baking soda volcano” is a fun group activity or making “plaster molds of animal prints” you can track as you hunt for them and keep. These are just a few, but basically all is possible with science!
B: When you were 10, what did you want to be when you grew up?
ML: Without a doubt an Artist and Director!
B: What advice would you give a kid who wanted to be a scientist?
ML: Of course, I am not a scientist. But these are my thoughts: explore the world around you, the mind is curious. Feed it by following your instincts, be brave, be bold, be innovative. I strongly believe that there is no problem that cannot be solved. All it takes is perseverance, patience, and hard work. Most important have fun doing it. All is not doomed!
B: If you could go anywhere in the world (or out of this world) where would you go?
ML: I want to go to the Galápagos Islands and meet the Galápagos giant tortoise which is the largest living species of tortoise and the 13th-heaviest living reptile, reaching weights of over 400 kg and lengths of over 1.8. meters.
When I was about 3 or 4 years old, I had a giant tortoise as a pet named Zoubida. I lived in Algeria where it was hot! Showers were outdoors. I would stand up on my tortoise who loved water, and we would wash together. It was great fun!
Later, as an adult, I was in southern Mexico, on New Years Eve of 1999. I suddenly saw a whole bale of turtles walking right out of the ocean and heading straight at me! I was sitting on the beach. It was a full moon then, I remember it well. And it almost felt like daylight. They came and started digging in the sand and laid their eggs and left.Just like that! It was awesome, like I was in a science fiction movie. I will never forget that experience!
Thanks to Maria for answering our questions, and be sure to check Professor Blue out HERE on batteryPOP!