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Up All Night

ByTom MillerThe Secret Life of Scientists and EngineersThe Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers

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Click here for Alan’s profile.

You don’t have to be a scientist to raise a scientist. But you might have to sacrifice some sleep.

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Our case in point is Alan Sage.

According to Alan, he didn’t really have a “science-y” childhood. His dad is an English teacher and his mom is an organist.

Up All Night-alan_as_kid.jpg
Alan with his Mom and, of course, a train

So while they exposed Alan to a wide range of great experiences, they, as Alan put it, “couldn’t help with problem sets.”

Of course, if you’ve watched Alan’s “Vegetarian Scientist?” video, you know that one of the experiences Alan’s folks exposed him to was the NYC Transit Museum. To feed Alan’s passion for anything and everything relating to the New York City subways, his dad took him to the museum over 1500 times during a five-year period! And Alan’s mom was a willing co-explorer whenever she and her son actually rode the subway to get from one place to another. As Alan explains:

“On the New York City trains, you can walk between cars. And I would drag my mom to walk me between those cars, so I could touch the little things connecting the cars, and it was really a totally sensory experience.”

So Alan’s parents have clearly always been very, very devoted to him.

But the story that really got me happened during Alan’s high school years. At that point, he’d discovered his love for science and was spending long hours at a lab to complete his work for the Intel Science Talent Search. Alan would often get home from the lab at 9 or 10 at night and still have to complete his homework for his classes the next day at New York’s Stuyvesant High School. How did he do it? Alan tells the story:

“My mom and my dad were both really supportive through this whole process. My mom would sometimes stay up till 3 or 4 AM while I finished my homework. Otherwise, I don’t know how I would have made it. I probably would have just fallen asleep on the desk every night.”

Now you can argue that parents shouldn’t make their kids stay up all night to finish their homework.

But you can’t argue with the parental love that helped a child like Alan pursue his passions.

Original funding for "The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers" was provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.