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How Superheroes Can Inspire Kids to Learn about Science

Getty Images/Frank Rothe

I have enjoyed reading stories about larger-than-life superheroes ever since I was a young child. In my day job, I am a mild-mannered attorney. At night, I am a husband and father of two young girls. I regularly read comic books to my girls before bed. Many lessons can be learned from superheroes, from truth and justice to various fields of science.

Before I enrage all my fellow comic book nerds who thrive on the details of characters, let me say, this is just a fun way to justify my comic book habit to my wife, not a deep scientific discussion. Yes, in the real world, if someone is hit with a massive blast of radiation, they would likely develop cancer and not superhuman strength. Even Stan Lee, the creator of many superheroes at Marvel Comics, once said: "I am the least scientific person you'll ever know. So I try to seem scientific with our characters, for example...when Spiderman became Spiderman, had him bitten by a radioactive spider, I thought that sounded very logical and believable and scientific."

However, if you suspend your disbelief and move past it, a great deal about various scientific fields can be learned from comics. The important thing is they can inspire a new generation of young scientists in hopes of one day turning science fiction into reality. For those who are fans like me, please feel free to include more characters in the comments, but here's my list:


Who he is: Peter Parker

Powers/abilities: After being bitten by a radioactive spider at a science demonstration, Peter gained the powers of increased speed, agility, and the proportional strength of a spider.

Day job: Peter has been a high school science teacher at his alma mater and has worked at a scientific think tank.

What he can teach and why: Chemistry. Peter Parker was a high school science prodigy who went to college on a science scholarship. He used his knowledge of chemistry to build his signature web shooters and web fluid when he was 15 years old, and he frequently makes different batches of the web fluid to fight the unique properties of his villains.


Who she is: Barbara Gordon

Powers/abilities: She has a photographic memory and is a highly trained athlete.

Day job: Librarian

What she can teach and why: Information technology. Barbara Gordon used to patrol the night as Batgirl, but then she became confined to a wheelchair after being shot in the spine by the Joker. She continued her pursuit of justice as the Oracle and used her computer network and photographic memory to assist heroes in the field by providing valuable information.


Who he is: Henry "Hank" McCoy

Powers/abilities: Hank McCoy is a mutant who looks like a giant blue cat. He has increased speed, strength, agility and razor sharp claws.

Day job: Scientist

What he can teach and why: Genetics. Hank McCoy is a founding member of the X-Men, a team dedicated to working toward peaceful coexistence between humans and mutants. He is a brilliant scientist who uses his knowledge of genetics to help identify new mutants and their abilities. He used his knowledge of genetics to help cure the deadly Legacy Virus, which threatened to destroy humanity.

Poison Ivy

Who she is: Pamela Isley

Powers/abilities: She is immune to all poison, can entrance men through pheromones, and controls plant life.

Day job: Scientist prior to transformation

What she can teach and why: Botany. Pamela Isley was a scientist who specialized in botany before she acquired her plant-based powers. She has a strong desire to protect the Earth and its plant life from the ravages of mankind.

Iron Man

Who he is: Tony Stark

Powers/abilities: He has a genius level intellect, wears a suit of high-tech armor that grants increased strength, speed, flight, durability, and produces repulsor blasts.

Day job: Billionaire industrialist

What he can teach and why: Engineering. Tony Stark is the primary shareholder of Stark Industries and started his career as a weapons manufacturer. He uses his engineering skills to build inventions, including the Iron Man armor, which he has created in several different styles in order to fight the villians at hand.


Who he is: Victor Stone

Powers/abilities: Cyborg is half man, half robot. His robot parts give him increased strength, durability, projectile weapons, and the ability to communicate with computers.

Day job: Superhero

What he can teach and why: Robotics and information technology. Victor Stone was a star high school athlete who was set to play college football, but during Darkseid's invasion of Earth, he suffered extensive physical injuries. His father, Silas Stone, was a scientist at S.T.A.R. Labs and used a mix of experimental and alien technology to bond cybernetic components to his son, saving his life. Cyborg's robotic components allow him to fight all kinds of villians, and he uses his ability to communicate with computers to help the Justice League on their adventures.

Night Nurse

Who she is: Linda Carter

Powers/abilities: She has training in medicine.

Day job: Nurse

What she can teach and why: Medicine. Linda Carter was a normal nurse, but after she was rescued by a superhero, she began using her medical training to help treat heroes who were injured in the line of duty, sometimes pro bono. She then adopted the identity of the Night Nurse.


Who he is: Ray Palmer

Powers/abilities: He has a genius level intellect and can shrink down to subatomic size.

Day job: College professor

What he can teach and why: Biology. Ray Palmer designed a belt powered by a white dwarf star that allows the user to shrink to subatomic size. He uses it to fight challenges that are too small (pun intended) for other superheroes to fight. He frequently fights microscopic creatures, such as bacteria, parasites, and viruses. He has even shrunk down and entered the bodies of other heroes to fight infections from the inside.

Captain Marvel/Ms. Marvel

Who she is: Carol Danvers

Powers/abilities: She can fly; absorb energy and project it; and has increased speed, strength, and endurance.

Day job: She was an Air Force pilot, but now she is the head of S.W.O.R.D.

What she can teach and why: Aeronautics. Before gaining her powers, Carol Danvers was an officer and pilot in the United States Air Force. She was caught in an explosion with the Kree superhero Captain Marvel, which caused her to absorb his DNA and gain powers. She recently served as the leader of the Carol Corps, an all-female fighter pilot squadron, and is the leader of S.W.O.R.D., an organization that protects the world from extraterrestrial threats and that is based in a satellite orbiting the Earth.


Who he is: Bruce Wayne

Powers/abilities: He is a highly trained physical athlete and known as the "World's Greatest Detective."

Day job: Billionaire philanthropist

What he can teach and why: Criminology. After witnessing the death of his parents in a mugging, Bruce Wayne traveled the world to learn from experts in a variety of fields, such as martial arts and criminology. He returned to Gotham City as the Batman and uses his keen deductive mind and criminology knowledge to catch criminals.