I’m writing this while traveling 480 mph at 30,000 feet over the Pacific on my way back from a wonderful whirlwind time in Japan for the NAIST-GCOE International Symposium, and I’m trying to figure out the point of going in the first place. The more I think about the reasons for going to Japan, the more I think about a question that Profs. Trimmer and Fisher asked me at the NIH-MCB Training Grant Retreat: “Why did you decide to study biology?” I wasn’t expecting such an existential question, but I thought about it and tried to answer it the best that I could.
I guess the reason I chose to study biology is that it’s all about relationships, and these relationships make studying biology complicated but also really exciting. All of biology, at its most fundamental, is the study of complex physical and chemical relationships. Using knowledge gained from studying these fundamental aspects tells us how cells, tissues, organs and organisms work. It also goes the other way, and this is what the BMCDB Graduate Group is all about.
They also asked me why I decided to come to UC Davis. My stock answer for relatives back home in Michigan is, “the weather,” but that’s not really why. I was attracted to the BMCDB Graduate Group because of its philosophy; I decided to stay because of its people.
Because grad school in biology isn’t just about the relationships you study in lab, it’s also about the relationships that help you make it through. I’m really fortunate to work with a great group of colleagues and friends at UC Davis. Now I can count all of the Chinese and Japanese friends I made in Nara, Japan.
And that was the point of my trip to Japan. I realized that cultural and language barriers aren’t barriers to friendship and respect. Breaking down these barriers is important for us as scientists, humans and global citizens. I fully realized the importance of breaking down these barriers when I stood beneath where the atomic bomb detonated over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.
So, biology is all about relationships: it’s about the relationships that we study and it’s about the relationships that help us make it through. Pay attention to both.