|Is||Writer Biologist Scientist Molecular biologist Author Novelist Educator|
|From||United States of America|
|Type||Academia Biology Literature Science|
|Birth||1 January 1956, Hyde Park, Dutchess County, New York, U.S.A.|
Joan Lyn Slonczewski is an American microbiologist at Kenyon College and a science fiction writer who explores biology and space travel. Her books have twice earned the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel: A Door into Ocean (1987) and The Highest Frontier (2012). With John W. Foster she coauthors the textbook, Microbiology: An Evolving Science (W. W. Norton). She explores her ideas of biology, politics, and artificial intelligence at her blog Ultraphyte.
Slonczewski was born in 1956 at Hyde Park, New York and raised in Katonah, New York.
She earned an A.B. in biology, magna cum laude, from Bryn Mawr College in 1977. She completed a PhD in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry from Yale University in 1982 and post-doctoral work at the University of Pennsylvania studying calcium flux in leukocyte chemotaxis. Since 1984 she has taught at Kenyon College, taking sabbatical leaves at Princeton University and the University of Maryland, Baltimore. Slonczewski's research focuses on the pH (environmental) stress response in Escherichia coli and Bacillus subtilis using genetic techniques.
Slonczewski teaches both biology and science fiction courses. From 1996 through 2008, she has been awarded Howard Hughes Medical Institute funding for undergraduate biological sciences education, which she uses to improve science instruction and to foster summer science fellowships for minority and first-generation students.
She was the Hal Clement Science Speaker in February 2011 at the Boskone 48 convention.
Slonczewski is also a member of the Quakers and Quakerism is featured in many of her novels.
Her 1986 Campbell Award-winning novel A Door into Ocean shows her command of genetics and ecological science, as well as her commitment to pacifism and feminism. It depicts the ecosystem of a planet covered entirely by water, inhabited by an exclusively female race of genetic engineers. Daughters of Elysium (1993), The Children Star (1998), and Brain Plague (2000) are loose sequels.
A serialization of her The Children Star (1998) appeared in Analog Science Fiction and Fact, a magazine known for hard science fiction.
Brain Plague (2000) depicts a world where intelligent microbes inhabit human brains. The microbial aliens have potential for great good as well as great evil. They evolve in the same way as pathogens such as the AIDS virus or as symbionts such as our digestive bacteria, which help keep humans healthy. Brain Plague tells of a future in which genetic engineering, combined with nanotechnology can do everything from shaping our bodies to growing enormous buildings for us. "One time in class, my students were discussing my book Brain Plague. I asked the class, 'Is this book liberal or conservative?' A student said, 'It's conservative, because all the characters are married.' Another student jumped up, 'It is not conservative!' Half the book's marriages are gay – with a few robots included."—the author.
The Highest Frontier (2011) is a coming of age story about the first year in college of Jennifer Ramos Kennedy, a member of the ongoing Kennedy political dynasty. The year is 2108 and Jenny is attending Frontera College which is located in a space habitation. The earth is being destroyed by human-made ecological catastrophes blamed on the "ultraphytes," UV-photosynthetic plant-animals from outer space. Some political factions are promoting space habitats as a solution, but the spacehabs can only accommodate a tiny percentage of the human population. The political system is grid locked. The Highest Frontier addresses political, social, and environmental issues.
Slonczewski invented the concept of the Mitochondrial Singularity, the idea that the technological singularity is happening gradually; that humans are gradually becoming the "mitochondria of our own machines." She explores these concepts in her novels Brain Plague and The Highest Frontier.
- Robert Tomsich Award, for outstanding achievement in research in science, Kenyon College, 2001.
- Silver Medalist, National Professor of the Year program, Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, Washington DC, 1989.
- John Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel, A Door into Ocean, 1987.
- John Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel, The Highest Frontier, 2012.