Pigeonhole: (verb) 1. the act of placing someone in a category as narrow and confined as a literal pigeonhole is
Advice from Dale to adventurers like myself in science: “Don’t pigeonhole yourself.” There is always a tendency and social stigma to stay relatively fixed on a path, but the path can change. “Be free, science is all about freedom.” Dale briefly recounted the story of the cosmic microwave scientists who won the Nobel prize after simply stumbling upon a noise that was actually radiation from the universe! It proves that life is full of twists, turns, and surprises; including his own.
Dr. Cameron ‘Dale’ Bass, PI to the fabulous Bass Injury and Orthopaedic Biomechanics Laboratory, grew up not only in North Carolina, but also in Belgium, where he attended the International School of Brussels before returning to earn his Bachelor’s and Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Virginia. Even though there always existed the dream of becoming an astronaut, Dr. Bass decided to stray from his seemingly set path and received his postdoc in Biomechanics. The big dream is to one day discover the cause and genesis of brain injury. He discusses a scenario where somebody is punched—in the 200 milliseconds after the punch, where does the brain switch from the conscious to the unconscious? Dale also shared with me a time in lab when he was at the University of Virginia. Their team had ran their impact test on thousands and thousands of dummies and even several cadavers in preparation for a huge showcase for an automobile company. On the day of the display, hundreds of spectators, including the automobile company, showed up to see the cadaver impact test, but one at a time, different aspects of the set-up began to fail and nobody knew why! His experience simply confirms the ideas of luck, failure, and persistence within science.
While Dr. Bass would love to have dinner with Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr, I was simply lucky to sit down and talk with him for a few precious minutes. I am always smiling and laughing while talking to Dale, but just as important, always learning and ready to learn more in his lab!