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100 Reasons to Become a Scientist or Engineer

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

The Editors

Ottoline Leyser

2012-07OLReasons100FK.jpgClick to Enlarge ImageI have always been interested in how things work, and this is the essence of science. Science is about building models of the world that have explanatory and predictive power. Through this process, it is possible to build a useful framework for understanding the world around us.

My particular interest is in plant developmental biology. I would like to know how a fertilized egg becomes an oak tree, and how the tree’s final form is shaped by interactions between its genes and the environment in which it is growing. The process is partly driven by a beautiful, intricate, dynamic network of chemical messengers, through which the different parts of a plant communicate. The network was not engineered and built from the outside, like a car. It has arisen from the inside over millions of years of evolution and reassembles itself every generation. I find it an irresistible challenge to try to figure out how it works.

There are many more pragmatic reasons for chasing this kind of understanding, for example, delivering a safe, secure, sustainable food supply. But for me it is the human desire to explore and understand the world that drives science—the very same thing that drives people up Mt. Everest and to the North Pole. Science just happens to be much more useful.

Ottoline Leyser

Associate Director of the Sainsbury Laboratory

Cambridge University

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