Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Jotthe Kannappan: Insatiable Curiosity

Just last morning, Dr. Uwe Bergmann mentioned that there are many things he works on that "keep him up late at night." Interestingly, I had heard that exact phrase used in conjunction with research before.

Just this summer, I had a research mentoring professor talk to me about his life as a researcher. He also mentioned that there are problems that keep him up at night, and that his science, often times, consumes him. He is a man motivated by the truth. What was strange about that particular conversation though, is that he then posed the question "why do we do this to ourselves?"

I hadn't found an eloquent way to sum up his thoughts, but I think Dr. Bergmann incidentally answered the question that had been about to come out of my mouth. He said "Learning something new, seeing something that nobody else has seen before? That is absolutely breathtaking." It is that moment of discovery, that flash of understanding, that has motivated so many of the scientists we see at Stanford today.

Not the least of whom is Brian Kobilka, a recently crowned Nobel Laureate. He mentioned that he had essentially been working on the solution to this research problem for 20 years, and essentially said that the only reason to stop a line of research is when the answer is no longer worth finding. He too, is so motivated by that moment in which it all makes sense, that he has spent his entire life searching for it, undaunted by the often mundane quality of research science.

What astounds me about this situation  is that, sans incredible inspiring quality, that motivation is nothing less than a stubborn desire to never face defeat and an insatiably childish curiosity. I suppose I always knew the adamant streak would become useful one day. As for the childish curiosity, who ever wants to stop being a kid? I certainly don't, and neither to the lead researchers at Stanford.

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