Neil Shubin: A Universe Within

Even though I’m not applying to U of C for college, I’ve heard enough about it to know that when a professor from U of C has something to say, it’s likely interesting, insightful, and thought-provoking, so naturally I was excited to be attending a lecture given by U of C’s own Neil Shubin. He certainly lived up to my expectations, as well as those of the woman sitting next to me, who would not be quiet. There were a few all too audible “hallelujahs” that issued from her lips, and as much as I found her distracting, we were on similar wavelengths.

Attending Neil Shubin’s lecture reminded me of why it is that I have grown to love science: connections. He owned up to the fact that a lot of people dislike science because it makes them feel small and insignificant but proudly proclaimed that he wasn’t trying to make anyone feel less important. If anything, his mission was the opposite: to connect us to the grand history of our universe. Whether it’s filling in macroevolutionary links, like a flat-headed fish, or discussing a group of women at Harvard who discovered a ruler for deep space, Dr. Shubin has clearly made it his mission to discover a universal legacy. The most interesting thing in his lecture was the discussion of the body clock and the circadian rhythm. It’s amazing that our bodies will self-regulate to be on a 24-hour cycle. I feel like body clocks would be essential to research because if one could discover the typical human body clock, or at least a way of assessing it person to person, people could know the optimal amount of sleep or time to eat that will allow them to function the best. Think of how much more productive our society could be if we only listened to our bodies!

My favorite part of the lecture was being reminded that we’re made up of the recycled elements of stars. It’s fun to think of everyone as made of stardust, and it’s information that never fails to brighten my day. If I ever decide to become a scientist, I hope that I would follow in Dr. Shubin’s footsteps and make it my mission to make connections. The connections in our universe are not only interesting to study, they also make all of us stronger.

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