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Stanford Medicine magazine delves into the joy and power in discovery

The new issue of Stanford Medicine magazine explores the power and joy of fundamental curiosity-driven scientific research and discovery.

When Brianna Rivera was a junior in high school, she believed she couldn't fit into an advanced high school biology class.

That changed when she joined a Stanford science program at San Jose's Andrew P. Hill High School, where she soon became known as "the girl who loves science." Rivera is now preparing to transfer to Boston University, having just completed her freshman year as a biomedical engineering student at San Jose State University.

The program, Future Advancers of Science and Technology, is run by Stanford graduate students whose aim is to encourage scientific curiosity in students who otherwise might not have the opportunity to pursue science careers, and mentor them along the way.

Mission accomplished for Rivera, whose story is highlighted in the latest issue of Stanford Medicine magazine, which focuses on discovery in fundamental science. Though she's the youngest person featured -- in an article about the FAST program and its impact on high school and graduate student participants -- the joy Rivera gets from research and science is shared across the board by scientists we highlight in the issue.

Introducing the issue, Dean Lloyd Minor, MD, talked about how basic science and a fascination with the workings of the inner ear shaped his own career. "The curiosity that captivated me was the same innate yearning for discovery and knowledge that characterizes all of our researchers."

In an article about some of the lab members researching the sense of touch in the Stanford lab of Miriam Goodman, PhD, mechanical engineering graduate student Joy Franco said observing the worms they study is "my absolute favorite thing to do."

"When you're looking at the worms as they're moving around, it is just beautiful," she said, adding, "I just can't get past how awesome that is and how awesome it is that that's my job -- looking at really cool stuff through a microscope."

National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, MD, could be forgiven if he couldn't find time to visit his lab, considering the demands of his job. But in a conversation with Stanford Medicine's Paul Costello, Collins said spending time in the lab keeps him grounded in science. Besides, being drawn to basic science is "just who I am," he said. Having an opportunity to participate in research "drives me to get up in the morning."

In other articles:

  • Research on tiny organelles, tadpole tails and flesh-ravaging parasites illustrate how curiosity-driven biology under investigation at Stanford Medicine is fueling the future of medical discovery.
  • A medical school curriculum overhaul prompted by some of Stanford's most esteemed scientists is designed to allow more flexibility in coursework to better position students to pursue scientific research and personal discovery.
  • Two neurosurgical residents turned to basic science research to better understand deadly brain tumors in children and to find an effective treatment. A potential new drug therapy they identified is now in clinical trial.
  • A drug developed at Stanford became the first immunotherapy drug approved for use in patients in 2010, sparking a revolution in cancer treatment. Though the drug, Provenge, never gained wide acceptance, it's now undergoing new analysis and testing.
  • In an excerpt from her book The Unspeakable Mind: Stories of Trauma and Healing from the Frontlines of PTSD Science, Stanford psychiatrist Shaili Jain, MD, shares what she's learned about PTSD and its legacy on families.
  • Two young brothers beat the odds against stem cell transplants to fight a genetic disease called IPEX syndrome.

In talking about Rivera's transformation, FAST cofounder Cooper Galvin, a graduate student in biophysics at Stanford, called on scientists to tap their potential to "inspire the public to engage in science, follow curiosities, get messy -- no matter age, race, socioeconomic status."

Image by Tavis Coburn

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