Viewpoint: I don’t get modern science, but I stand in awe

By Grace Gaddy
Assistant City Editor

I was the kid who cried after chemistry class.

Sure, I could read, ‘rite and ‘rithmetic and even wield a paintbrush, but throw me in a lab with shiny glass beakers and a worksheet decorated with complex formulas, and I was a goner. All hope evaporated.

So, fearing a self-imposed academic apocalypse, I formed a survival plan. There was usually a kind soul in each of these classes who took pity on me. Oh, and this person also had a better grip of things by the way. We would pair up and together go on to valiantly navigate the course — lab partners for the win.

Somehow, after years of assorted science classes, I completed all my high school and college requirements, and I didn’t blow anything up.

Points for me? Hardly.

Rather, points go to those who dissected their pigs, mixed their chemicals and continued on with greater vision. I remember one girl in particular from my high school science classes. She was passionate about researching cancer cells and dreamed of finding a cure. Today, she’s still aflame with the dream that sparked in those classrooms and is presently researching in labs across the country.

It’s people like her that make me want to sing and shout. Although science, if personified, did not seem to choose me personally for work in its fields, I am so grateful and inspired by those who are working and in the field, particularly in regard to medical advancement.

Recently I read an article on Yahoo that chronicled the top 10 medical breakthroughs expected for this year. Sit back and be inspired.

See progress in the Cayman Islands, where scientists manipulated the DNA of male mosquitoes and released them into the wild. Since mosquito-borne illnesses “kill more people than any other disease,” according to the article, the 2010 experiment proved noteworthy after the insects could not reproduce, resulting in an 80 percent drop in the area mosquito population. Now, scientists are looking to further that improvement by creating a new genetic trait that would block the transmission of mosquito-borne diseases.

Other breakthroughs are expected to appear through various technical gadgets, creations and developments.

A new FDA-approved device, for instance, could be implanted directly into blood vessels that would treat large, complex brain aneurysms. This device would reduce blood flow, which feeds the ballooning of the vessels, and could consequently cancel the need for surgery.

In the area of prosthetics, robotic limbs and bionic legs are on the rise. This is literally smart technology. These mechanized body parts use sensors, microprocessors and a motor to replicate the action and motion of normal human movement. Users can adjust the settings on a smartphone.

Before, such technology was extremely expensive and typically limited to members of the military. But times are favorable to see that change, according to the article, with an expected increase in production and accessibility.

I gathered an extra boost of progress-packed inspiration from a pre-med friend’s status on Facebook. My friend posted a link to a National Geographic video, which presented a truly fascinating gadget. “The skin gun,” as its engineer named it appropriately, essentially takes a measure of a burn victim’s healthy skin cells and sprays them onto damaged ones. The video showed a second-degree burn, which typically takes people weeks to recover from — completely healed in four days.

Watching that video and reading about such breakthroughs only deepened my respect for the people who study in these fields, working so hard to enhance our world with scientific medical progress.

While the periodic table still confounds me, I remain in awe of the field of science.

Grace Gaddy is a senior journalism major from Palestine and is the Lariat’s assistant city editor.