Heather Jackson

Growing up, my mother was a nurse. She had all her textbooks, and I remember flipping through them, looking at the pictures, learning the names of organs and tissues. I remember learning to pronounce “sphygmomanometer” and knowing what that was when I was still very young (it’s the blood pressure cuff that hangs on your doctor’s wall).

At first, I thought I wanted to learn about language – the way that words were built and combined to create meaning. I pursued this course to a Bachelor’s degree in French, a teaching certificate, and taught for a year. I became a technical writer, did some substitute teaching, worked at my church, and did some blogging (that's what you'll find under Personal). I wrote a very bad novel for National Novel Writing Month. Still, I felt incomplete.

I saw a sign that offered to train people to become pharmacy technicians, and decided to try it. This let me play in science more, as I had when I got my degree, but I found it so limiting. I decided that I could go farther, and started working on the prerequisites necessary to become a pharmacist.

This sparked a passion in me. Maybe it’s better to say that it gave voice to a passion that already existed, but had yet to find an outlet. I’d never been interested in becoming a doctor or a nurse – I had no stomach for surgery or cleaning up after others (sorry nurses, but you are some special people, and I just… no. I don’t have it in me).

Still, I had all this knowledge I’d begun accumulating as a child and then had personalized through my own struggles as an adult. I was certain that there had to be a way to use it, and helping people find the best way to handle which medications they were on seemed a great choice.

As I studied, I fell in love with the biological sciences, and began to lean further and further towards doing something with immunology or microbiology. Not only that, as with most of the people I talked to, Organic Chemistry got harder and harder. I began to wonder if I had the chemistry foundation needed to fight disease from the pharmacological side.

The question was answered in early April 2013 when a friend I loved dearly passed away suddenly as a result of a viral infection. I knew I couldn’t develop new drugs, but I did know enough to study human immunity or the pathogens that cause disease. I would leave pharmacy behind and pursue a PhD in microbiology & immunology.

As I’d started working towards pharmacy school, I’d been tutoring classmates. I used tools I’d learned in high school, in college the first time, while training as a pharmacy technician, and from professors as I went. I used tricks I learned from watching TV (but only when they fit) and mnemonics anywhere I could find them, connecting new info to existing information, always looking for ways to help my classmates make the information their own.

It’s because I’ve trained as a teacher that this website was born. It’s because I have a passion and desire to keep learning that this blog exists. It’s my desire to have an impact beyond my own couch that I created something that can be used by people I’ve never met.

It’s The Small Things is all the tips and tricks and tools I can think of to help people retain and hook science into the knowledge they already have. It’s the articles that make science exciting and demonstrate all the new frontiers we’re exploring. It’s about the microscopic world that has a far larger impact on our lives than we realize. Finally, it’s a reminder that science isn’t about the one new big discovery – it’s the little steps that build on each other that all add up that will one day, allow us to change the world.