What skills are necessary to cultivate for success in science? How does someone become a scientist? What does a scientist do on a day-to-day basis? These are some of the questions seventh graders explored last week with alumna Christin New ’99, Lead Clinical Research Coordinator at Stanford’s School of Medicine, who came to speak as part of the students’ “Chemistry-in-Action!” unit.
To help them become good, thoughtful scientists, Christin encouraged the students to continue developing their curiosity and critical thinking. Curiosity, Christin explained, keeps the mind receptive to new information and ideas that haven’t been considered before, while critical thinking gives a researcher the tools to analyze a problem, evaluate the data, and reach a deeper understanding of how the world works. Critical thinking also stimulates the examination of current practices, which is critical for groundbreaking scientific discoveries.
“This approach [of curiosity and critical thinking] has never failed me, whether it is working on a project with coworkers, reading a newspaper article about a new treatment for heart disease, thinking about more global issues, or politics,” said Christin.
She also explained the importance of chemistry for minimizing the side effects of drugs. Christin talked about the importance of understanding the chemical reactions in the body when being treated with various drugs. Those interactions are heavily monitored by the Food and Drug Administration and can influence the progress of the clinical trials Christin manages.
As Christin talked about her job, she painted a realistic vision for students of the daily work of a scientist, explaining the routines of paperwork and lab prep which can feel monotonous when no exciting insights are generated but which are in fact the foundation for robust research that eventually leads to intriguing discoveries.
After giving her presentation, Christin talked with students over lunch, where they discussed nootropics, building dimensional analysis calculators, neuroplasticity, and satellite imaging, among other topics.
“I was particularly impressed by the great questions about my work in cancer clinical trials, gene therapy, pseudoscience, and FDA regulation of herbal products and supplements,” said Christin. “It was such a pleasure, and it was really inspiring for ME to meet so many well-informed kids who asked great questions.”
March 31, 2017