Welcome to STEM Tuesday: Author Interview & Book Giveaway, a repeating feature for the fourth Tuesday of every month. Go Science-Tech-Engineering-Math!
Today we’re interviewing Chana Stiefel, author of FINGERPRINTS: Dead People DO Tell Tales.
Mary Kay Carson: How’d you come to write this book?
Chana Stiefel: Enslow Publishers was doing a series on True Forensic Crime Stories and the editor contacted me and asked if I’d be interested in writing a book about fingerprints. I was instantly intrigued–mainly because I was a fan of the TV show CSI, I’d never written about forensic science before, and was excited to take out my magnifying glass and dig into the research. That’s one of the best parts of being a science writer: You often get to research and write about topics you know very little about–until you feel like a mini expert.
MKC: Did your exhaustive research lead to some interesting finds?
Chana: Oh my goodness, yes! Fingerprints are so fascinating. Did you know that…
- No two people on the planet (not even identical twins) share the same fingerprints. This has made fingerprints a great tool for solving crimes since the early 1900s.
- Fingerprints develop as a baby grows in its mother’s womb—by the 19th week of development! The variety of patterns of fingerprints is determined both by genes and the movements of the fetus’s fingers inside its mother. Tiny movements affect the growth of dividing skin cells on each finger.
- Fingerprints may have evolved to increase friction (for instance, helping early humans grip tools).
- As we grow and age, our fingerprints stay the same! That’s why a fingerprint might help solve a crime years after it’s committed.
I could go on and on! Ever since writing this book, I have never looked at fingerprints the same way. So think before you spray Windex on that mirror or countertop! 🙂
MKC: Do you choose to specifically write STEM books?
Chana: I’ve always been passionate about science and nature and I love to share my interests with kids. After college, I earned a Master’s in Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting at NYU School of Journalism. (That’s where I met the awesome Mary Kay Carson and many other talented science writers.) While there, I got an internship down the block at Scholastic’s SuperScience Blue, an elementary science magazine (also a Mary Kay hangout) and later became an editor of Scholastic’s Science World, a biweekly science magazine for middle schoolers. Since then, I’ve written several STEM books on tsunamis, earthquakes and other natural disasters, as well as books on wild weather and cool scientists. Last year, my book Animal Zombies and Other Bloodsucking Beasts, Creepy Creatures, and Real-Life Monsters was published by National Geographic Kids.
MKC: Who did you write this book for?
Chana: This book is geared toward middle school and up. I hope to spark kids’ interest in forensics by making the science as interesting and relevant as possible. For example, many schools are using fingerprinting to have students securely sign in. Theme parks have also used fingerprinting to ensure that season passes are only used by the purchaser. I also wanted to include plenty of information so that readers could debate the merits of fingerprint science. It’s not foolproof. Many innocent people have been wrongly convicted based on fingerprint evidence. Also, some people feel that creating a national fingerprint database invades privacy. (ie, Who has access to your fingerprints? At what point does a process that increases security invade privacy? Are you willing to give up some privacy in order to stay safe?) Finally, I included various jobs related to fingerprint science that might intrigue readers, including crime scene technicians, fingerprint examiners, and so on. In general, my goal is to open kids’ eyes to the wonders of the natural world and help them see how science plays a role in our daily lives. Sometimes the coolest facts are on the tips of your fingers!
Win a FREE copy of FINGERPRINTS: Dead People DO Tell Tales!
Enter the giveaway by leaving a comment below. The randomly-chosen winner will be contacted via email and asked to provide a mailing address (within the U.S. only) to receive the book.