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“Ms. Tucker, what happens when type A and type O blood are mixed together in a test tube at the same time? Since you’re not putting A into O or O into A, will the blood still clot?“
I knew that patients receiving blood transfusions could only accept specific blood types, but I was fascinated by what the outcomes would be in a lab environment. However, my 7th-grade science teacher – Ms. Tucker – thought that antibodies were too advanced a topic for the class and dismissed my question. I was left to ponder this inquiry until I reached freshman biology.
Freshman biology felt like a revelation. I finally began to have real, concrete answers for a whole series of burning questions I had stored up inside of me. I felt relieved, as though my biology class had the potential to provide the missing links that would make everything logical. But as I received answers to some of my questions, such as why cats had different fur colors in different spots and how snakes could produce venom but not be affected by it, I accumulated even more convoluted questions. Seeking more answers, I decided to take AP biology the following year. Ironically, the more I learned, the more questions I still had.
My AP biology class touched upon the topic of stem cells, which then sparked in me the urge to find out whether we could use stem cells to regrow nerve fibers. The textbook, however, had no answers, and my late-night google-ing revealed that such uses for stem cells were still in the domain of science fiction. Yet why weren’t we able to grow nerve cells yet? My list of questions grew longer each day. I read about a biogenetic experiment in which a mouse was used to grow a human ear. When would we be able to use biogenetic engineering to grow transplant organs?
When asked about life-shaping experiences, many would share major events such as mourning the death of a loved one, scoring the winning touchdown in the football game of the season, or digging wells in Africa. My experience probably seems pedestrian in comparison, but taking freshman biology and then continuing on to AP biology were my epiphanies. These two courses sparked a never-ending cascade of questions and so much imagination for what the future can hold – what I want the future to be. My biology teacher, Mr. Lund, stated it best when he asked, “hasn’t it occurred to you that this is what you’re meant to do?”
I know without a doubt that I will commit my studies and my future career to seeking answers. Can we use gene therapy to cure a virus? Can we halt the progress of drug-resistant disease? Can we enable someone with a severed spinal cord to walk again? So much innovation will continue to occur over the next several decades, and I plan to be a part of it worldwide. I plan, most importantly, to keep asking questions.
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