Scientists commonly are pictured as peculiar brainy people wearing a white coat and working in laboratories filled with many strange instruments and bottles of colored liquids. This Hollywood view of scientists has them working to create evil monstors, terrible new diseases, and unthinkable disasters for humanity and our planet. While that is acceptable for entertainment, when this false view expands into the real world it becomes very disconcerting for hard-working real research scientists; you can imagine the difficult problems that arise when a little boy asks his father the doctoral scientist, “What kind of new plague did you create today with your bacterial DNA work, Dad?”.
Doing high quality science with creative research is not easy, and so should be much better appreciated by non-scientists. I have earlier explained that the average adult today has never ever talked to a real living scientist or visited a research lab; they have very little idea what professional researchers actually do (see “On the Public Disregard for Science and Research” ). This large gap is filled by the Hollywood movies with science-created monsters and the television portrayals of crazy scientists. I believe that exposing everyone to some distinctive individuals who are research scientists will help normalize this unfortunate modern delusion.
I recommend the following videos to you! These will provide you with a taste for what sort of people real research scientists actually are. You will see that not all Ph.D. scientists wear white lab coats, some have many talents besides working with test-tubes or x-ray synchrotrons, and all have very distinctive personalities. Their lives are filled with adventures into the unknown, but some good scientists also are quite enthusiastic about aviation, cooking, gardening, surfing, or vacations.
KARY B. MULLIS is an utterly fascinating person with a great sense of humor. Among his many creative achievements in science are his childhood rocket experiments, his receipt of a Nobel Prize (Chemistry) in 1993, and his fearless disputes about what is true. His wonderful website ( http://www.karymullis.com ) is filled with loads of material, stories, and photos. I enthusiastically recommend a video of his talk to a general audience in California ( see “Sons of Sputnik: Kary Mullis at TEDxOrangeCoast” ). He always comes across as being very individualistic, curious about almost everything, and completely unafraid of anything!
SUMIO IIJIMA looks at the world through electron microscopes, and specializes in magically seeing what other scientists do not observe. He is very active with research in the still-expanding field of nanoscience. His website includes a gallery of candid photographs, including some showing lab parties and his bicycle ( http://nanocarb.meijo-u.ac.jp/jst/english/Gallery/galleryE.html ). I heartily recommend here the video of his elegant presentation in London (2007) about his celebrated work with carbon nanotubes (see “Nanotubes: The Materials of the 21st Century” ).
BRENDA MILNER is a pioneering neuropsychologist/neuroscientist who investigate memory systems in the brain. After over 6 decades of research work, she continues with an amazingly advanced age to do research enthusiastically at McGill University in Monreal. She recently added one of the 2014 Kavli Prizes in Neuroscience to her large collection of major honors. I recommend both a truly delightful, but overly short (only 59 seconds!), video showing her in action (scroll down the opening page to see “Short Presentation of Brenda Milner” ), and a slightly longer video at another website (see “Brenda Milner Video Biography” ).
There are many other good videos about research scientists available on the web. Try to find another one featuring a scientist working on some topic or research subject that interests you, and watch it! From these videos, you will see that scientists are very devoted individuals actively working at research, teaching, and life; in other words, they are not weird creatures from another planet, but are just your fellow people!
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