Laura L. Mays Hoopes is a married college biology professor who teaches and does molecular gerontology research at Pomona College east of Los Angeles. She has two grown children and a yen to write. She has a memoir coming out in spring, 2010 and 21 published articles in magazines and newspapers. After taking many online writing courses, she completed a certificate in creative writing through UCLA Extension with Distinction in 2009. One of Laura’s essays won second prize in the Writers’ Journal Travel Article Contest in 2007, and another won first prize in Byline Creative Nonfiction Contest in 2008. A prequel of her memoir, “Great Ecology Tour,” was published in the North Carolina Literary Review in summer, 2008. In summer, 2010 she received a scholarship to the Norman Mailer Writers Colony to study Biography. In fall, 2010 she was admitted to the MFA program at San Diego State University and has continued her study of creative writing (fiction). She is at work on a biography of two major women molecular biologists and two novels.
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In her memoir, Breaking Through the Spiral Ceiling, Laura Hoopes chronicles her entry in to science in the 1960s, before men were ready for women to join them in molecular biology. She ran into both locked doors and supportive mentors along the way, and as she grew up, she decided not to give up a family life for science. That decision shaped her career as she completed her PhD at Yale, did postdoctoral research, and accepted a faculty position at Occidental College in Los Angeles. Throughout the memoir, Hoopes shows how she balanced career and family, and she comes down unequivocally in favor of family relationships for women scientists, unlike many voices today. She is passionate about getting the message out that it IS possible to be a family woman and also a productive, publishing scientist. We see her juggling a sick child and a teaching responsibility, confronting racism in her son's junior high school, and being overwhelmed by the suicide of one of her early research students. Her grants and research happen in the background, and she lets us know they mean a lot to her without taking us into the details of the science. Hoopes' memoir will make you laugh, cry, and cheer as you follow her progress through professorial ranks to Vice President for Academic Affairs and national leadership for undergraduate research.