March 2, 2016
Nerd, poindexter, brown-noser, teacher’s pet, brain. These were just a few names I got called in elementary school. I was a super fast reader and reading is half the battle at that level. Because I finished work early, got called on to read out loud and was put in special reading groups with older kids, I was labeled smart, which led to the nicknames above. It never bothered me, unlike other names I got called for being short.
When I hit middle school, assignments became a little more challenging and I had to put in a lot more effort. By the time I hit high school and AP math and science, I realized there were a whole bunch of kids a lot smarter than me. I wanted so much to be a “smart kid,” I did ridiculous things like signing up for AP chemistry even though I knew it was beyond my skills. (Fun fact: Mr. Danes also knew it was beyond me and moved me up to sit between the two smartest boys and said maybe I would absorb something by sitting next to them. I was smart enough to know that scientifically, that wouldn’t happen.)
Back then, it seemed pretty easy to figure out what “intelligent” meant. Alex and Matt, who I sat between, were the very definition. I, on the other hand, was a little farther down on the scale. Now that I’m a lot older and a little bit wiser, I’m pretty sure that the definition of intelligent is as varied as we can imagine. There are book smart people with no common sense. I know people who failed classes but can create amazing art, and students who struggled academically but built successful companies. I might have struggled though AP chemistry, but that certainly doesn’t define my intelligence. I just focus on my strengths. Thank goodness everyone is smart in his or her own way. The world would be pretty boring if that wasn’t the case.
Chris Adami, a professor of microbiology and molecular genetics as well as a professor of physics and astronomy, is the kind of smart that blows my mind. He’s a brilliant scientist and researcher. I read about the stuff he’s working on and I feel like someone is scrambling my brains with an eggbeater. But he’s also just dang cool. Some of his research uses high-performance computing to evolve artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence? I can barely get my head around regular intelligence and he’s creating it. Watch the video in the FACULTY VOICE: Design and Evolution, to learn more about his fascinating work. Trust me, you’ll feel smarter just by listening to him talk. (Hmm…maybe Mr. Danes was right after all.)
Doctoral student Jim Porter is using his smarts to actually study smarts. A former teacher, he’s now a student in the Department of History studying theories of intelligence across the ages. Read his STUDENT VIEW: Studying the history of intelligence, to learn more about his work.
Today is Dr. Seuss’s birthday. He used his marvelous intelligence to spin tales and important messages using silly rhymes and children’s books. He holds a special place in my heart because the beginning of my “smarts” started with the first book I read, “Hop on Pop.” He once said, “I like nonsense. It wakes up the brain cells.”
So, in the spirit of Dr. Seuss, here’s a little bit of nonsense for you.
Yep, that’s a dog wearing braces. (Technically it’s not really nonsense because the poor pup couldn’t eat correctly because of his crooked teeth.) He’s a bit of an Internet sensation so you may have already seen him. But, did you know the veterinarian who helped him is a Spartan? Jim Moore is an associate professor in the MSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital and an expert in animal dentistry. I'd say he's pretty smart.
There are endless ways to be brilliant in this world and Spartans prove that every single day. Spartans are making scientific discoveries and exploring our history. They’re helping people and animals have healthier lives. They’re leaders in business and teaching the next generation. They’re writing, performing, exploring and succeeding. No doubt that Spartan smarts make this world a better place for all of us.