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April 11, 2018

Head first

April 11, 2018

I like to think I have a lot of drive, determination and courage. Whether it’s a work project, changing my headlight, tiling a bathroom, raising an awesome kid, traveling to far-flung places, giving a speech, volunteering, reaching out, learning something new or helping someone in need, I see a challenge and I’m pretty likely to dive in head first and tackle it. Unfortunately, I took that a bit too literally this weekend and have the goose egg and black eyes to prove it.

What started out as a lovely Sunday walk turned into a nightmare. One broken leash, a wiggly puppy, a road and a car could have led to a horrible outcome. In the end, thanks to a very attentive driver, and maybe me screaming like a banshee, the puppy is fine. Me, not so much. In my mad dash to avoid catastrophe, I managed to take a header on the concrete. And I mean header…forehead to the pavement with elbows and knees also coming away bruised. In addition to my pain, I also gained a deep appreciation for the kindness of strangers when the attentive driver drove us home.

After a quick trip to the doc, I was deemed to be OK without any serious injuries. Apparently, anyone who has ever accused me of being hard-headed is right. But in all seriousness, I’m very grateful as it could have been so much worse. Even as I sit with an ice pack on my head and what looks like a really bad purple eyeshadow application, I would do it again in a heartbeat. Some risks are worth the reward and some results require a difficult path.

It's no secret that a career path in science, particularly for my generation and those before, wasn’t always an easy one for women. Medicine, science, engineering, mathematics and technical fields were dominated by men. But that didn’t stop the four women profiled in the MSUTODAY FEATURE: Women in science, from pursuing their dreams. Along the way, they also became exceptional leaders in their fields. Amy Ralston, Angela Wilson, Melanie Cooper and Cheryl Kerfeld all hold donor-funded endowed positions within the College of Natural Science.

Check out the feature to learn more about them, including how one kept her microscope a secret when she was a child and another began working in a lab at age 14. For more specifics about Cooper’s work and why a deep understanding of science is more important than regurgitation, check out her FACULTY VOICE: Improving chemistry education.

They’re just a small example of the really cool Spartan women we have working in the STEM fields all over campus. Like Julia Busik, an MSU physiology professor, whose work may lead to deterring eye problems that diabetics face. Or Jennifer Pechal, an MSU forensic entomologist who is the lead author on a study that shows that the postmortem microbiome, or bug colonies present after death, can provide crucial insights into public health. And those are stories from just the last few days. Every day there are Spartan women around the world making incredible discoveries and working on some of the world’s most puzzling problems.

This generation of Spartans is guiding the next generation of women to pursue their dreams and become the problem-solvers of tomorrow's challenges. Jessica Yen is a sophomore majoring in biomedical laboratory diagnostics and a College of Natural Science Dean's Research Scholar. As a high school student, she was able to work in the lab of Anne Dorrance, an MSU associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology, where she was inspired to make research a part of her career path. Check out her STUDENT VIEW:  Falling in love with research, to learn more about this next-generation female scientist.

All of these extraordinary women didn’t think twice about diving head first into science. Whatever road blocks appeared in their paths, they simply found a way to go around or drive right through them. Their dedication to their fields and to research that will make a difference in lives is inspiring – and not surprising from a group of Spartans. Not everyone will be able to make a great scientific discovery, but whatever you do, dive in head first – even if it’s just to save a puppy. Spartans Will.

Lisa Mulcrone
Editor, MSUToday
twitter bird@LMulcrone

Photo by Derrick L. Turner


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