Yes! I figured it out! I often have moments where I get excited because something is finally clear to me or I’ve solved a problem. Granted, I haven’t figured out the principle of volume nor do I run naked through the streets like Greek scholar Archimedes shouting, “Eureka,” but I do tend to celebrate a bit, even if I’m by myself. I think our interns probably think I’m strange as they listen to me talk to the walls of my office pretty much every day.
My discoveries are pretty small and irrelevant in the grand scheme of life. They usually include things like figuring out the right sentence to use, or finding just the right photo, or teaching myself something new (aha, Photoshop…I have figured out your layers…you can’t hide from me!) or discovering why it’s wet under my kitchen sink or remembering the name of someone. Yet, I still celebrate in my own way. Heck, I high-fived a colleague yesterday for making a basket with his gum wrapper. No matter how small, it’s important to celebrate success.
Sometimes, success comes after a lot of frustration and failure. Yes, I went through seven versions of a file in Photoshop before I got it right. Sometimes the problem consumes your thoughts and keeps you up at night. I’ve had plenty of sleepless hours mulling over challenges and trying to find solutions.
Jason Gallant, an assistant professor of zoology, found himself up at night for weeks trying to figure out the genetic secrets of one rogue butterfly from his research, which, I might add, is way more important to the world than me figuring out Photoshop. Gallant is the first author on a recent paper that suggests that when it comes to evolving some traits, there may be a shared gene that’s the source.
Back to the rogue butterfly, which actually would make a cool band name. Yeah, that’s the kind of discoveries I come up with. To be fair, Gallant does compare himself to a musician, so there is some method to my madness. Gallant and his colleague spent months trying to find explanations for why this one butterfly didn’t fit with their data or theory. While I was up thinking about my kitchen sink, he was up scanning the butterfly genome sequence. Read his FACULTY VOICE: The Rogue Butterfly, to find out if the story ends in a eureka moment for him.
Alana O’Mara, a junior in the Lyman Briggs College, might only be an undergraduate, but she is already well on her way to finding her own eureka moments. She’s already been doing research on campus with a faculty member and spent the summer as an intern with the National Institutes of Health. Read her STUDENT VIEW: NIH Intern, to find out more about her experience.
Discoveries come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and Spartans are making loads of them. It might be about genetic evolution or public health. It might be figuring out the best way to teach 8-year-olds. It might be engineering a more efficient engine or creating a new variety of blueberry. Maybe it’s something as complicated as black hole theories or how the universe went from three elements to 100. Maybe it’s finding ways to vaccinate more children or figuring out how to grow drought-resistant crops. Whatever the discoveries might be, Spartans will be making them.
Photo from video footage by Alberto Moreno