The Life and Times of a Science Hero

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It was a late Friday afternoon and he sat there lounging in his chair overlooking Columbus Avenue– the trees had shed their leaves, the snow was shoveled into large heaps towards the edge, students were scurrying off for the weekend, cars were making it a busy street. The winter chill was in the air and his nth cup of coffee was misting up his glasses. Lost in thought, only when his vision blurred did he realize it had been about 20 minutes since he was lost into a world he wanted to create. His subconscious remained occupied with ideas and fantasies of a technologically advanced universe, but consciously he was only thinking of ways to get that grant he needed to make his dreams a reality. He thought of experiments and data sets; analysis and reports; and troubleshooting and errors.


He turned to his desk quickly demisting his glasses to continue writing that grant. Boring, he thought and sipped on the much needed caffeine he needed to stimulate his mind. Thinking back to how he viewed the world, he realized how vital it was to get the grant. With the reality of its importance in his mind the researcher within him was alert and almost greedy. In the course of writing the lengthy grant where he explained, extrapolated and amplified his idea, his train of thought helped him go back to his vision and gave him impetus to translate his idea. The grant writing process helped him imagine the impact his ideated product would have on the world. He thought of experiments- deeply, errors- realistically, resources- frugally and data- excitedly.  A few more cups of coffee into his system and a completed grant proposal he looked up from his computer after what seemed like an eternity, it was past midnight. He turned toward the large glass window behind him to find the helter-skelter vanish. The chaos had disappeared. The state of his mind resonated with the look of the street- calm, quiet, ordered and peaceful. Smiling, he shut his computer with a feeling of accomplishment.

Days passed by and so did weeks. His patience was running out and so was his will. It was a few months before the golden envelope was delivered to his desk with approval for funds. He thought back to the day he wrote that grant and of all those experiments he only dreamt of performing. It was finally time to embark on a journey that had been on his mind forever.

On a bright Monday morning his lab assembled for the weekly lab meeting. Undergrads, PhD’s, postdocs came together for the big announcement. The vibe for innovation and newness created the atmosphere. Protocols for validation studies made the rounds. Laboratory hierarchy was reconstructed and it began functioning like a well-oiled machine.

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Weekly meetings progressed where data was being discussed. Science continued to surprise these inquisitive minds. Outliers in data raised questions and errors skewed plots. Significant information continued to contribute to the documentation and so did the failures. There were days when the whole idea was questioned and days when it seemed it would change the way we lived. Boards were filled with equations and notebooks scribbled with thoughts. Numbers, images and graphs captured the minds of every person on the project and epiphanies solved complex problems. Some thought on their feet and walked aimlessly around the lab while some brooded over coffee, some came up with solutions ranting about the project and some while grabbing lunch. The research had become a central theme in the lives of the individuals of the lab.

Progress was made and ideas were being fueled. After a busy afternoon analyzing data he went back to his desk only to ruminate over his thoughts. He thought and believed that his work would one day walk out of the lab into the real world for everyone to see. He saw the busy Columbus Ave again. Movement, motion, people moving forward and backward. Some crossing the street some standing and chatting. The busyness of it all reminded him of his lab he had walked out of a few minutes ago. He became nostalgic of how he felt after he finished writing his grant. He wondered if one day his research would be ordered. Would he feel accomplished? What would the day look like when his work bore fruit?

His journey was not a simple one, neither is it of researchers over the world. Idea to product, innovation to utility, and science to technology is a metamorphosis that few are able to achieve. Yet, these researchers go back to trying something new with a strong belief in science. Falling and rising, winning and losing, trying and giving up make them individuals who revolutionized this world. Science heroes, with capes of lab coats.

Written by Divya Parikh
To read more about Science Heroes read about the story of Quad Tech

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