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ESSAY

100 Reasons to Become a Scientist or Engineer

On our 75th anniversary, we collected 75 reasons. Now we've added 25 more

The Editors

100
Susan Alberts

Click to Enlarge ImageIn college, I began as a philosophy major. No one in my family was a scientist, I didn’t know any scientists and it never occurred to me that I might be a scientist. But at the small liberal arts college I attended (Reed College), I was required to take, among other things, an introductory biology course. I remember sitting through some of the lectures in that class in a state of astonishment at the biological world the professors described, a world I had only a limited awareness of at that point. One day Bert Brehm, then professor of biology at Reed, taught us about coevolution, using the evolution of the fig and the fig wasp as an example. I believe my mouth literally dropped open during that lecture. I had not previously understood how powerful science was, or how satisfying scientific explanations could be. This sense of satisfaction about a logically coherent explanation for a mysterious natural phenomenon is nicely summed up by the journalist Harriet Martineau, who wrote in 1859, upon the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, “One might say ‘thank you’ all one’s life without giving any idea of one’s sense of obligation.” That’s how I felt that day in the fig wasp lecture, and that’s why I became a scientist.

Susan Alberts

Professor of Biology, Duke University

Associate Director for Science, National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent)




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