Often times, one would envision ‘the scientist’ as an individual with specific plans, designs, and goals, all culminating into this profoundly ambitious dream. And that’s true. But, there’s something missing.
Dr Joe Heitman, MD., PhD.- my PI- stressed the importance of making connections in science, whether it be with other people, between different concepts, or among methods of inquiry. Working on these things, even little at a time, can get you so far.
Science is social. This doesn’t mean that ‘the scientist’ wouldn’t get anywhere with talking to anyone. But, communication is at the center of what makes great papers and discoveries. Dr Heitman emphasized the importance of having an open dialogue in the lab, and between labs that may even be a few states or nations apart. This work is isn’t about being another star in the night, a well-known ball of energy adding to the light of this sky. It’s about sending signals, working with others in order to leave some permanent or influential knowledge that could potentially shape current efforts or inspire new ones.
Dr Heitman told me stories about the people he’s met in his career that took him on paths he’d otherwise never consider. With subtle advice, some have even inadvertently led him to address questions in his research that ultimately led to significant breakthroughs. The key thing to take away is that although your mind should be focused, your ears should always be open. In fact, Dr Heitman’s primary interest has always been about molecular structures, specifically nucleic acids. Yet, here he is- in a microbiology lab instead of genetics. It’s amazing where a path can take you.
I definitely enjoyed speaking with him and getting to know his many transitions from a chemist to biologist to medical doctor to principal investigator.