When Science and Literature Collide: Dr. Mandy Hartley on Her Award-Winning The DNA Detectives Series

Dr Mandy Hartley has a PHD in genetics and runs scientific workshops aimed at teaching children about DNA, and to share her love of science and literacy. She has written a series of award-winning books, The DNA Detectives, which are aimed at children aged 7-12 and encourage an interest in STEM learning through exciting, engaging adventure stories.

We chatted to Dr Mandy about her love of science and the inspiration behind the series.

What first got you interested in STEM?

Science was always my favourite subject, even at primary school. I enjoyed finding out why things worked and the reasons behind our observations. I knew I wanted to end up working in science, but at that stage I didn’t know what job I wanted to do. It was when I was working on my final year project at university, I had a light bulb moment. It was this moment which helped point me in the right direction a career in a field which I feel I have been very lucky to work in. I was extracting DNA from a mosquito, to try and determine why they were becoming resistant to insecticides. I was genuinely wowed by seeing DNA in a tube! I realised all living things had DNA and if I worked in this field I could work anywhere in the world, on any animal or plant and there lots of different jobs available from forensic scientist to archaeologist. If I got bored of one thing, I could move onto the next. I have never looked back!

What is your favourite fact or favourite thing you have learnt about DNA?

I really love the fact that if you unwound all the DNA from one of your cells, it would be about 2m long. That blows my mind, the vast amount of information that is stored in that 2m is incredible – all the instructions to build a human! I also love the fact that my name “Mandy”, is an anagram of “My DNA” – it was like it was meant to be!

Find the DNA Detectives series on Pickatale today by downloading the app or signing up to a teachers account.

What was your inspiration for writing The DNA Detectives?

A friend suggested I write a book and I thought he was joking! How could I write a book? My aim has always been to inspire children with a love of science. With my workshops I can reach children near to where I live in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, however, I realised with my books I could potentially reach children all around the world. It has been wonderful to see children as far away as Iceland, America and Canada are reading my stories and hopefully becoming passionate about science. A teacher in London once told me that reading my stories had increased the aspirations of her pupils. They now all wanted to be forensic scientists! Seeing the impact my books are having and hearing how they are helping teachers with teaching science and literacy really is a dream come true for me.

What are you hoping readers will feel or learn after reading the stories?

I am hoping they feel that genuine excitement when they read, that wonderful feeling you have when you simply must read the next chapter to find out what happens. I also hope they start putting together the clues in their mind and coming up with ideas of what they think has happened and who might be responsible. It is always good to ask questions and come up with solutions! I hope they will see how the things they are learning about at school fit into real life science and through the weblinks want to find out more about the wonderful science that is going on around them at the moment. More than anything though, it is my dream that reading my stories will inspire them with a love of science and will encourage them to pursue a career in this field.

In our next blog, we find out more about Mandy’s inspiration behind the characters and storylines.

Find the DNA Detectives on Pickatale today by downloading the app or signing up to a teachers account.

About the books

The DNA Detectives: To Catch A Thief

The DNA Detectives, Annabelle and Harry’s pet dog Milly goes missing. The children sadly accept that the local pet thief has struck again. Join The DNA Detectives on their thrilling journey as they collect clues and learn about DNA.

The DNA Detectives: The Stone Age Mystery

The DNA Detectives meet archaeologists and scientists to unravel the mysteries of the Stone Age. Solve the crime of who stole the artefacts and discover fascinating details about cave paintings and extracting DNA from ancient bones to find out how people looked like.

The DNA Detectives: The Smuggler's Daughter

Join Annabelle and Harry, The DNA Detectives on their journey to find the smuggler’s tunnel. Find out how they use DNA to unlock questions about the past. Children will learn about DNA, cells, and forensic science.

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