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Learning from past scientists

Watch this video to find out why Dr Julia Horsfield, from the University of Otago, sees herself as part of a wave of advancing scientific knowledge and why she believes collaboration is so important.

Transcript

DR JULIA HORSFIELD
It’s important to learn from past scientists because no person in isolation can really understand everything. And I like to see – of myself in science, anyway – as part of a wave of advancing knowledge. And the picture has been brought into sharp relief recently with… you work in your own lab and you make your little discoveries, and then, oh, you know this person over there has found much the same thing, and that person there has found a human disease and they are all interconnected. And you feel as though what is unknown is over there, and you are here, and you are part of a big long line of people all pushing in the same direction, and it works so much better if you and those people communicate together.

But you wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for those people that had broken the ground before you and whose knowledge that you could draw on to better understand, you know, what you are doing now. When I think of what it’s possible for us to do now in the lab, it was almost unheard of 20 years ago that we would be able to sequence the genome of an animal, you know, sequence every single gene, try and understand what that does.

And the first initiative for sequencing the human genome took, you know, 10 years or more, but now you can sequence the genome of an animal in a week – so much has technology advanced. But if you think about it even further back, unless somebody had discovered the structure of DNA or the principles of sequencing DNA, then none of any of this could have happened.

So we owe so much to the pioneers of science, and I love the kind of human continuity to it as well. So being a developmental biologist, there is kind of a special heritage with that. So some of the real pioneers of science were mentors to people who were mentors to people who were mentors to me, and so you feel as though you are really connected to those people that made extraordinary discoveries.

Acknowledgement:
US Department of Energy Genome Programs external link
Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine external link
James D. Watson Collection, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Library and Archives

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