Are you a science nerd? I am.

At times like these, when I’m on my eleventy-billionth diet coke (that’s our favorite number in my office) and I’m having another Hershey bar lunch, and I’ve worked more 10-hour days  than I can count, I ask myself, “tell me again, self, why do I do this?”

There are many reasons why. Dr. Peter Pang is one of them. (He’s the guy in the photo.) We worked   together in the Fall to apply for his K-award, which he recently received, and will be starting in May. Dr. Pang is developing an intervention for a group of  patients with heart failure who are first diagnosed in the emergency room – he hopes that his study will help physicians determine how to best treat this group of high risk patients with intensive treatment so that patients who are sent home will not have to return back to the hospital. Right now, if they receive usual care, they often relapse. His research could impact the lives of many older people who are impacted by heart failure. I adore Dr. Pang’s tireless dedication to his research – and I am fascinated by the idea he is proposing. I really love to work with him and enjoy every time we do a new proposal together. He’s a rock star.

I’m deeply motivated by Dr. Phyllis Zee, whose research is changing health outcomes for people affected by sleep apnea, and Dr. Konrad Kording, whose research affects people with neurological disorders. Every time we do a new proposal for Dr. Kording, he likes to tell us about what it means for every day people. I love that about him. Dr. Steve Gard is developing prosthetic and orthotic devices which function more effectively for survivors of stroke and traumatic brain injury.

Every time I get involved in a project or a proposal, it’s as naturally tiring as can be. But I mostly love the experience because it has natural rewards. I thrive on the science and research aspect because I’m a nut about that kind of stuff. I read science journals for fun, and I like learning about my investigators’ careers. It’s fun for me to get to know everyone involved in the proposal and I want to have them get the award. I like to help the investigator develop the project, so I’ll look into aspects of the proposal that go beyond the technical points of submitting the proposal itself. I enjoy learning about a new area of science – and becoming knowledgeable about a new aspect of medicine. (We joke in my house that when we go to the doctor it’s for a second opinion.)

It’s really difficult for our FSM investigators to apply for research grants, so we work hard to help them with their applications while they are in clinic, doing rounds, performing procedures, and (in the case of Dr. Pang) working in the Emergency Department during their shifts. We keep the process moving and allow our investigators to focus on the science, and take pride in that process.

One study itself does not advance science, but it adds to the evidence that allows for science to build to a conclusion. To contribute to the career of an investigator, or to help an investigator receive an award that leads to an advance in science – that’s the thrill of a lifetime for this science nerd.

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