Some day, I hope to write a physics dissertation. Right now, I'm just hoping to get through precalculus. But assuming I do so, and that calculus itself doesn't suck the very marrow from my bones, I plan to go on to study physics at an undergraduate level and hopefully (someday) pursue a doctorate. And a Ph.D., as we know, involves the writing of a dissertation .

Even if I never get to that point, the very desire to learn about the world around us, to dream of one day calling myself a physicist, is something I never thought I'd have. Getting to this point has required the input and inspiration of many individuals. I suspect if I ever write that dissertation, I'll have even more names to add. For now, these are the people who have gotten me to this point.

Quentin - My eldest son, with an insatiable curiosity. From Bill Nye the Science Guy to "George's Secret Key to the Universe," Quentin and I have learned the basics of science and physics side-by-side. Eventually, I realized my wish for him to be a scientist one day was really a projection of my own desire to learn ever more and become a physicist myself.

Mrs. VanWyck - By far the best science teacher I ever had. In the sixth grade, she introduced me to the basics of physics and the cosmos, and to Bill Nye the Science Guy. She's the first person I remember making science interesting and relevant, and hers is one of the only classes I really remember from Jr. High.

Bill Nye (the Science Guy) - I LOVED his show in sixth grade and loved it even more as an adult. Bill Nye makes science interesting, funny, relevant, and fun. He explains the basics of physics with such finesse, and always made me want to learn even more.

Random boy whose name I can't recall - When I was a freshman at community college, floundering around, unsure what I wanted to do with my life (a state that continued for a good decade, I'll have you know), I worked in the childcare room a couple nights a week. One of my coworkers wrote a paper about quantum physics and as I helped him edit it, he explained the basics of the concepts to me. I was positively fascinated by the uncertainty principle and wave function collapse and the idea that observing and measuring something's state could actually change the state, and I remember that as the first time I wished I were smart enough to actually study something like physics.

Stephen Hawking - I read "The Illustrated Brief History of Time" when I was a teenager, but what really got me hooked was the "George" books. My then-four-year-old's insatiable thirst for scientific knowledge was quite satisfied by "George's Secret Key to the Universe" and "George's Cosmic Treasure Hunt." As for me, I found an interest in the cosmos, in black holes, in astrophysics, that I never would have imagined. Stephen Hawking's work continues to inspire me.

Rebecca Mosher Webster - One day I was whining on Facebook about how I wished I were smarter, I wished I had learned more about science in high school, I wished, I wished, I wished. She told me in no uncertain terms to quit whining about what I wish had been and to make the things I wanted happen. I was rather irritated with her at the time, mostly due to the fact that she was right.

Robert Walsh - He seems to have inspired numerous Unitarian Universalist sermons with the phrase, "Nothing is settled; everything matters," and I happened to read one of them at a critical point in my life. Nothing is settled. That's a powerful thought if you take it to heart, and I did. My life hasn't been decided for me. It's not done. I'm going to be a scientist, even if that means I'm studying until I'm 40.