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ADHD and STEM w/ Raven the Science Maven, Dr. Raven Baxter

by Faster Than Normal

Raven Baxter, also known as Raven the Science Maven, is an award-winning and internationally acclaimed science communicator and molecular biologist who works to progress the state of science education and culture by creating spaces that are inclusive, educational, and real.

Raven is an entertainer and content creator known for her unique style of combining science and music that teaches and empowers those in STEM and beyond. Raven speaks about innovation in science education and social change in STEM. Raven is the founder of Science Haven, a non-profit organization that operates at the intersections of science, education, and the public. Science Haven houses STEMbassy, a live web series that connects the public with science and technology professionals, and Black In Science Communication, a group that works to build relationships in the science community, equipping others with the knowledge and resources necessary to share science with the world in their own flavor. Raven has quickly developed a reputation as a strong voice in science education and has been recognized as a global influencer in several publications, including Fortune Magazine’s 40 Under 40 list for 2020.  Enjoy!

***CORONA VIRUS EDITION***

In this episode Peter & Raven discuss:

:41-  Intro and welcome Dr. Raven Baxter 

2:47-  So tell us about your background?

4:45-  Where did you go to college?

5:17-  So tell me a bit about when you first got diagnosed with ADHD?  

8:45-  So when you decided to pursue your career, how did that counter with your ADD/ADHD in the premise that it requires so much focus? You can’t sort of round-up in science, so how do you make that work and keep that focus and immediacy that’s needed?   

11:05-  Tell us about what you do, specifically? For kids listening that might want to go into Science, and have that fear they might not have the capacity to focus. 

12:40-  Tell us about what you’d say to kids who may have been told by teachers that science isn’t for them?  

13:54-  So, what would you say to kids about where to go next?  You know, you might get a seventh grader that says, “Hey, I want to do more of this!”  

15:10-  Tell us what you’re doing now?

16:20-  How can people find you?  Website: www.scimaven.com and @RavenTheScienceMaven on INSTA  Twitter & Facebook YouTube and @Sciencemaven on TikTok

16:32-  Thank you Raven! And thank YOU for subscribing, reviewing and listening. Your reviews are working! Even if you’ve reviewed us before, would you please write even a short one for this episode? Each review that you post helps to ensure that word will continue to spread, and that we will all be able to reach & help more people! You can always reach me via peter@shankman.com or @petershankman on all of the socials. You can also find us at @FasterThanNormal on all of the socials.

17:26-  Faster Than Normal Podcast info & credits

STAY HEALTHY – STAY SAFE – PLEASE WEAR YOUR MASK.. until next time!

As always, leave us a comment below and please drop us a review on iTunes and of course, subscribe to the podcast if you haven’t already! As you know, the more reviews we get, the more people we can reach. Help us to show the world that ADHD is a gift, not a curse! Do you know of anyone you think should be on the FTN podcast? Shoot us a note, we’d love to hear!

TRANSCRIPT: 

Hey guys, welcome to Faster Than Normal. My name is Peter. I am your host today and I’m thrilled that you’re here. It’s a gorgeous day here as we get close to the end of 2020, everyone’s assuming that 2021 is just going to be that much. Like we’re going to flip a switch and all of a sudden everything’s gonna be better.  And, uh, you know what, I’m too tired. I’m too tired to argue with that. So I’m going to say, yeah, sure. That sounds great. We are talking to someone who will tell us all about how crazy that idea is because this woman is involved with science. Her name is Raven Baxter, Dr. Raven Baxter, otherwise known as Raven, the science Maven. which I love.  Okay. She’s an award-winning and internationally acclaimed science communicator and molecular biologist. All right. So right here, I can tell you this woman’s four times as smart as me, which is great. She works to progress the state of Science, Education and Culture by creating spaces that are inclusive, educational and real.  I love that so much, I’m sitting here staring at my seven year old daughter, and I’m thankful that people like Raven exist.  Raven is an entertainer, she’s a content creator, she’s known for her unique style of combining science and music, that teaches and empowers those in STEM… and beyond. Raven speaks to that innovation in science education and social change in STEM, she founded Science Haven. Science Haven has this STEMbassy, I love that name, which is a live web series that connects to the public within science and technology and the connection with science, technology professionals, and Black In Science Communication, a group that works to build relationships in the Science community, equipping others with the knowledge and resources necessary to share science with the world in their own flavor. She was one of Fortune Magazine’s “40 under 40”, this year. She has a job,  she has a project in progress called Nerdy Jobs with Raven the Science Maven, which I think is awesome. She’s had a TEDx talk,  she’s on the STEMbassy season finale, she’s all over the internet…. welcome Dr. – welcome Raven. It is great to have you. 

Hi, thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to be here. I hope you’re doing well. 

I always know that my introductions have gone too long when the person like falls asleep and has to come back and say, Oh yeah, Hey, but no, it was a great into,  wonderful to have you. I’m thrilled that you’re, that you’re a part of this.  (2:47) Um, you’re doing some amazing, amazing things first and foremost. Tell us about your background. Tell us about how, how, how Science sort of picked you, as it were. 

Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, a lot of people listening to this podcast can relate. But potentially to having ADHD and like being, perhaps being a child and being into everything and wanting to explore everything.  And, um, I feel like with ADHD that was amplified in that, you know, I really felt like I was unstoppable. If I wanted to learn about the clouds I was in the library, like trying to get my hands on every single cloud book and. You know, when I got to the point where I felt like I knew everything about that, then I wanted to learn about space and I went to space camp, and I found that I was afraid of heights..  Yeah, I did it. Have you ever been??

Hey you know what’s funny. I never went as a kid. As an adult. I got invited to Media Space Camp, and so I spent three days doing the same thing that they did in space camp and it was incredible. 

That’s awesome. So you know how cool it is? 

Oh yeah

Just imagine being a little kid. 

Oh, I can’t even imagine, plus I went . I saw the movie, like the second it came out. Right. I was all about Jinx the robot. I wanted that robot, jinx. I was like Jinx and Max friends forever. I totally wanted that robot. 

Yeah, and I also, well, I guess not to be a downer, but I found out I was afraid of heights at space camp. So, you know, my dream of being an astronaut totally wiped down the dream, but I luckily had already been exposed to in part due to space camp, all of the different types of science careers you can have.  So, you know, I just dove into everything and eventually ended up into molecular biology. And that’s where I’m focusing now,  and, um, kind of parlayed into science education after having a career as a corporate scientist. 

Amazing amazing. Where’d you go to college? 

I went to SUNY, well, I went to a couple, a couple different colleges actually.Um, I started at SUNY college of environmental science and forestry also known as SUNY ESF. Um, and then I went to community college for a little while, and then I transferred to, um, Buffalo State College where I graduated with my bachelor’s and eventually my master’s. And now, um, I’ll be finishing my doctorate in May at a university at Buffalo. 

Very cool. (5:17)  So tell me a bit, so, you know, science, when you were, when you got ADHD, what was that? When did that? Okay, well, first of all, when did you get diagnosed?

I was diagnosed when I was about six or seven. 

Oh wow really?  OK, and did, get that at that age… it  probably, it probably didn’t really change much for you. You just knew, you know, here’s, what’s up, like it wasn’t like you’re diagnosed in your thirties or anything like that. 

Right? No. Well,  so when I was diagnosed, um, ADHD medications were very new on the market, right?  And so it was really up to my Mother to say, “OK, she has this okay, she has this diagnosis, what do we do now? Um, being that the medications were so new, she really didn’t feel comfortable putting me on anything, so, um, I essentially just… freestyled it, sorry, my dog is sneezing in the background. are you okay?  Um, yeah, so she just kind of freestyled it with me and just, let me, let me be me.

That’s awesome. You know, it’s interesting. Um, when I was, when I was growing up, it didn’t exist. Right? It was the sit down and interrupt the class disease and, um, you know. 

Oh yeah, that was me. 

So here’s the interesting thing,,,,the, the, the, the stuff that you liked, right? The, the, you know, like science, whatever kind of subjects you liked, I’m sure you were great at. 

Oh yeah. I was, I was naturally gifted at pretty much everything that I did, and I think that’s. That’s probably what frustrated my teachers the most is that I couldn’t sit down and do my work. I’d get up. I’d be spinning around during class while the teacher’s teaching. And while literally everyone else is seated, I just be up like twirling, twirling around like a tornado.Um, but my work would be done, right? Like acing  everything. So. I mean, I was, I was also bored, but I also was hyperactive, but it was also very smart and getting my work done. So teachers really didn’t know what to do cause they couldn’t really justify putting me in time out because I wasn’t white, like misbehaving, you know?

Yeah. So, but they were putting me in time out. Um, that’s the, my mom stepped in after that. 

It’s good to have parents that’ll have your back. That must’ve been tough. You know, here you are getting all this stuff done and it’s just that you were too fast for them. 

Yeah. Yeah, I didn’t, um, I remember them putting me in, um, a gifted and talented program, uh, at the same time that they put me in a special education program, which is a little confusing for me.Um, because I was going to like three different classrooms where most of my friends weren’t moving around. Like they just stayed in the same classroom. And, um, the, in the gifted and talented program, I, I was smart enough to do the work, but those kids were really self-disciplined. Um, they could sit down and do the work, and I felt very out of place because I couldn’t, you know, it was a smaller group of kids and I realized I was the only one, like, couldn’t stop moving around. Um, but I, I felt home in the special ed classroom. I really did. 

Yep. I believe it. And you know, what’s interesting is that, is that you go, you know, I remember, I never, my grades were… in  New York City, there was something called a resource room where you could get extra time and to do all these things, but my grades were too good. I, you know, I had great English skills and my math wasn’t great, but my English and science, all that was enough that you’re like, oh, he doesn’t need that, but he won’t shut up. 

Right. So you couldn’t, you couldn’t really win when you, (8:45) so when you decided to pursue science as a, as a career, you know, how was that, how did that sort of line u…. uh, how did that counter with your ADD/ADHD with the premise that, you know, you have to focus, right? You’re looking at things that, you know, I say, what is that great, uh, that great quote, when, uh, when, uh, you know, when, when a nuclear physicist screws up the world explodes, one of geologists goes up, rock breaks and that’s about it, you know, but you, you’re, you’re sitting there with like, you know, you’re doing stuff that matters and you’re doing stuff where you have to be completely on point, right?  You can’t just sort of round up. In science. Exactly. What, tell us, tell us how you are… um, how do you make that work? How do you, how do you keep that focus? How do you get that sort of, uh, immediacy that’s needed? 

That’s a very good question, and that’s something that I honestly struggled to answer myself.  Um, because as a student, um, being a scientist as a student, and when you’re learning the science, there’s really not a lot of pressure. Like you’re, like what you were saying, you know, you’re just enjoying the subject, you’re mastering the subject. But when you’re working as a corporate scientist, the script is completely flipped.  You know, when you’re working in drug discovery, where I was working, um, it was very difficult, to work in that high pressure situation, um, where you know that every number matters, right?  There’s barely any room for error because you’re working on a million dollar project and every test tube that you waste is $10,000 down the drain, literally.  And you’re also making things that will potentially go into somebody’s body down the line. And so you really want to make sure your work is the best it can be, which is possible with ADHD. But, um, I personally don’t feel like professional environments, such as like, a corporate scientific environment… I don’t think that they’ve quite come up with the resources needed to make that a comfortable working environment for somebody like you or me.  Um, I do think that like there needs to be special accommodations just like there isn’t school for people with, um, you know, learning disabilities and attention disorders. I think I would have had a much more comfortable working experience had that been in place. 

(11:05) Tell us about what you do, specifically…. right?  So give us like your top three. So you have a lot of kids who listen to this podcast and they’re, you know, if any of them wanna go into science and they’re afraid, well, I don’t have the, the capacity to focus. Tell us what you do. Cause it’s, it’s obviously you’ve proved that it’s possible. 

Yeah. Um, I think that for me, having ADHD is definitely about recognizing where your superpowers work the best, right?  Um, and asking for help when you need it. So, for me personally, I feel like, um, my excitement and my love for science really is best used when I’m teaching about science and sharing that with other people. Um, and so I’m able to take everything that I learned about as a student and share it with people that want to learn about science who are around me.  Um, and that’s what I do now. As a science communicator, I use music, I use videos, I use music videos and, uh, I communicate science through all of those things to help people learn about science and teach people about new things. 

I’ve never heard that  term science communicator, I love that. And what I’m going to love, is that you’ve managed to take what you love, combine it with what you do, and here we are.  

Right? Yeah. I love it too. Um, there, I’m sure you’ve heard of Bill Nye, The Science Guy, Neil Tyson… those are all science communicators. I just don’t think people know what to call them. 

Yeah. I’d never heard the term. That’s so cool. (12:40) Tell us about, um, so. What do you say to kids who don’t believe that, you know, oh, they’ve been told by the teachers and you know, mistakenly that yeah, you’re ADHD. You’re not gonna, you know, science isn’t for you. I mean, I, I, I, had a teacher that actually said I should pursue accounting, right? 

Oh my gosh. I think that science is perfect for people with ADHD. And the reason is because there’s so many questions to answer. And if you’re anything like me, you want to bounce from question to question to question.I mean, one day I’m thinking about. Oh my gosh, how did the universe start? Whoa. Now I’m looking into quantum physics and yeah, quantum physics…documentaries, and trying to learn about the big bang theory and different, different theories that exist that, um, that are talking about where the universe came from or where did life come from on planet earth, right?  All of those different theories. And it’s really exciting. There’s, there’s really no one way to love and enjoy science. And there’s so many different questions to answer, that it’s perfect for somebody with ADHD, because there’s something new all the time to focus on and learn about.

I love that. I love that. So the premise that you’ll never get bored?

You’ll never get bored. I can almost promise you that. 

(13:54) So, what do you say to, uh, where, where should the kid go next? You know, you’re going to get a seventh grader or something that says, Hey, I want to do more of this. 

Ah, gosh, that’s a really good question.I think that what’s worked for me when I was a young kid is just not getting too worked up about following a particular path. Like really just follow your natural instincts and pay attention to what’s interesting to you and just get lost in it. Right? Like I, some of the, I would’ve never become, I would have never become a molecular biologist if I didn’ decide that I could learn anything I wanted to learn and do whatever I wanted to do to learn that. So like going on Wikipedia, and clicking on Wikipedia to different articles and just getting lost in the articles, because everything’s linked to each other on the website, um, that’s one way to do it or watching documentaries. Um, going on, you know, asking your parents to go on to Netflix and picking up documentaries,  that’s appropriate for you to watch, to learn more, asking your teachers interesting questions, because they might be able to teach you something new. Um, those are different ways to get into it. 

Yup. I love that. Very, very cool. (15:10) Tell us what you’re doing now…

So now I am working full time as a science communicator while finishing my doctoral research.  Um, and I’m hoping to start a couple of new series with a major network next year. Um, all of this is pretty much under wraps, which is why I’m being a little vague, but, um, it’s a network that everybody loves and enjoys. That, um, we’re working on two shows together and both of those shows are science shows.  One of those shows is focused on biology and learning everything there is to know about biology. And, um, the other show is me exploring different jobs in science, technology engineering, and that the medics. 

All right. Very cool. So stay in. So it’s good that you’re not busy or anything like that. 

Yeah. Yeah. Right. Well, this has been very, very cool. (16:09) Tell, tell people how that they can find you, cause I have a feeling that you get a ton of followers and a ton of questions off this interview. How can people find you? 

You can find me um anywhere on the internet, if you Google  “Raven, the Science Maven.” I’m on Twitter @Ravenscimaven, and everywhere else at “Raven the Science Maven,” except for TikTok, where I am @ScienceMaven. 

I love it. I love it. Raven Baxter, Raven the Science Maven, thank you so much for taking the time to come on the podcast. This was a lot of fun and I think you’re going to give a lot of kids a lot of hope because let me tell you someone who has a seven year old daughter, who is currently playing with her brand new rescue puppy that we got. Um, it’s pretty awesome to watch her get excited about things. We’ve been doing science experiments, we’ve grown a crystal. Um, what else have we done? Done lot of fun stuff and, and it’s, it’s fun to watch her eyes light up when we do it. So, you know, go— go science!  I’m always, it’s funny. I haven’t, I haven’t said this yet, but I always want to quote the line every time she does something gets excited about, I want to teach her to say the line from um, um, from Breaking Bad where they cook their first batch of meth and is “science bitch,” but don’t wanna do it.  Raven, thank you so much for taking the time, we will definitely have you back at some point in 2021, stay safe, stay healthy, and we’ll talk with you soon. Guys, you’ve been listening to Faster than Normal. We love it when you’re here, we love it that you’re here. We love it that our numbers keep going up and the more people are learning that  ADHD is a gift, not a curse.  Please stay in touch with us, shoot us an email, let us know who you want to hear. Raven came to us… uh, from a user, from a listener who said, “Hey, you should have this person on your podcast.”  And we did. That’s how it works. It’s really simple, so if you want more, give us some names, we will make more easily.  Otherwise leave us a review, stay safe, stay healthy, wear a mask, we will see you guys next week. Thanks so much for listening, my name is Peter Shankman.

Credits: You’ve been listening to the Faster Than Normal podcast. We’re available on iTunes, Stitcher and Google play and of course at www.FasterThanNormal.com I’m your host, Peter Shankman and you can find me at petershankman.com and @petershankman on all of the socials. If you like what you’ve heard, why not head over to your favorite podcast platform of choice and leave us a review, come more people who leave positive reviews, the more the podcast has shown, and the more people we can help understand that ADHD is a gift, not a curse. Opening and closing themes were performed by Steven Byrom and the opening introduction was recorded by Bernie Wagenblast. Thank you so much for listening. We’ll see you next week. 

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