In the ongoing effort to encourage young people to choose a career in a STEM field — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — Laurel-based author Mark E. Tomassoni is doing his part through a series of illustrated children’s books and ebooks.
“[The goal] is to have young people become more aware of the elements of science and maybe become interested,” Tomassoni said. “How do we get more young folks involved in the sciences and show all the potential there?”
Tomassoni’s books — a series of 11 released in 2013 and available on Amazon — focus specifically on nanotechnology, still a relatively new scientific field. The Center for Responsible Nanotechnology defines the science as the “engineering of functional systems at the molecular scale.”
“There’s a tremendous effort to really become much more intelligent about things that are happening inside the atoms and molecules that make up the world,” Tomassoni said. “We’re learning more and more about what’s going on inside cells and atoms … in the not-too-distant future, there will be actual computers that will be running at the molecular level … science is happening very fast … right in front of our eyes.”
Tomassoni, who has a bachelor’s degree, two master’s and an uncompleted doctorate in engineering from Johns Hopkins University, is a government consultant by day. He said he first became interested in nanotechnology about five or six years ago.
“The concept of nanotechnology was gaining a tremendous amount of momentum in scientific communities but I sensed there were still a number of people who didn’t even know how to pronounce nanotechnology,” Tomassoni said. “I thought maybe there was a market for it.”
Though he’s never written a book before, Tomassoni teaches religious studies to fifth-graders at his church, St. Nicholas Catholic Church in Laurel, and has an idea about how to reach younger generations.
Nano and Nana are the hero and heroine of Tomassoni’s series, which includes books such as “Bots to the Rescue,” “Red, White and Bots” and “Nano Goes Golfing.” Nano and Nana use nanotechnology to make the world a better place — whether it be by cleaning up the environment or saving a group of scientists from a black hole. One of the ebooks even features the protagonists using the technology for the future of hairstyling.
Tomassoni works with co-writer Rama Ramesh and illustrators Yoko Matsuoka of Japan and Sheehan Demetillo of the Philippines to produce the books.
Though the nano series is aimed at children, Tomassoni said the books also can help simplify the topic for older audiences as well. The author even hopes to expand the series with some longer books for adults.
“I’ve thought about trying to become more serious-minded and create more serious characters,” Tomassoni said. “Working on taking these nanobot characters and turning them into serious-minded characters and getting a 50- to 100-page story out of it.”