Alumni At Work: Cole Williams

December 07, 2018

Williams writes children's books with an eye to sharing the joys of science.

Cole Williams

Cole Williams (B.S. Biology '10)

Can you tell us a bit about your career path and journey to becoming a published author?
Yes, I come from a background of laboratory research and worked in different labs after graduating from the U. I felt that it was important to become immersed in laboratory culture to gain experience with academic publishing and experimentation. The labs I worked in vary from molecular genetics to a Medical School lab to a lab in plant pathology. Before all these wonderful adventures, I studied while a student in the Galápagos Islands as well. There is nothing I love more than the stories where humanity, science, discovery and art merge. This is the intersection where I want my work to sprout from.

Dr. Brainchild cover
Can you talk a bit about the inspiration for your most recent book?
Dr. Brainchild & Radar depicts a historical record of Dr. Percy Spencer’s discovery of the microwave to teach introductory science themes. Going back to the drawing board, using creativity, not giving up, changing an experiment are all part of the story. This picture book for early readers combines science, discovery and creative characters to bring science to life as part of my mission to create books that dig, teach and explore. It is important for all young readers to be acquainted with the sciences in a fun way at an early age and for that reason, Dr. Brainchild has no gender and no pronouns assigned. It also takes a look at the fun juxtapositions of our rapidly advancing technological age. The microwave was used because every child has one or has seen one and can relate to it. Looking at the original design is entertaining and can be a spring board for going further into detail of the magnetron, the wave spectrum or electromagnetic radiation.

What does a typical work day look like for you?
The work days of a writer are often varied. I would describe it more as operating in seasons at least when publishing is involved. The writing process in the beginning includes daily writing, research and exploring. The editing and production process comes next and brings in the community of professionals that help create the book. I especially love working with illustrators. Promotion and marketing are whole endeavors of their own and bring the creation to audiences. On any given day I could be teaching a class at a writing conference, interviewing an expert or looking at prototypes of book images. There is a freedom and loose construction to it all.

What is the most noteworthy accomplishment you've had since graduation?
My most noteworthy accomplishment I would have to admit was the early morning while walking to my lab that I realized how I wanted to share science. There was a finality to it. I walked through that day (and the next four years) with the intention to create stories I believed in and wanted to share with younger audiences. Science should be for everyone. There is beauty in the stories that live in the halls of experimentation and discovery. Everything I have done since then is a result of that intention and the gall to try it out for myself, to believe in myself and push myself to keep going.

If you could give your college-aged self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Start exploring career options early and don’t limit yourself to the obvious choices. Add in a communication, language or writing minor and visit labs while taking classes. You don’t have to wait for an invitation, go out and get it right now.


Cole is also the author of Hear the River Dammed: Poems From the Edge of the Mississippi, Charlie​: A Child's Tale of Grief, Loss & Love, and Eukarya: A Child's Guide to Knowing Names of Nature. More information about Cole and her work can be found at