What Am I Doing Here?

Good Day All!

Today my kids saw a video about a chicken which was born with four legs- In short order I was asked by each of my kids (and by two of my neighbors) how such a thing could happen- They asked me because they were under the impression that I could provide an answer- Well; I could but was it really the right answer?

I thought this an appropriate time to explain (to them and everyone else) exactly what I hope to accomplish here- and by here I mean The Field Museum and by I , well I meant me! Due to a series of twists and turns I am spending my summer working with the staff at the Pritzker DNA Lab; one young, enthusiastic teacher, and four quite amazing students. Together we form a team which will utilize modern techniques in DNA analysis to study scientific questions based on the relationships of organisms (more on that later) -- The really cool thing about this summer is that I have the opportunity to trade in my teaching hat for a student hat and I get to practice scientific research again! So what is it that I am doing here?

I'm sure that my opinion will be influenced by the many events yet to happen but as it stands now- I believe that we (humans) have an innate urge to learn and expand our understanding of that which is novel to us. A hint of that drive is even within our own scientific name- Our immediate ancestors were given the name Homo sapiens which loosely translated means 'The Knowing Man' or "The Man Who Knows'. We have given our most recent selves the moniker of Homo Sapiens Sapiens or 'The Man Who Knows He Knows'. A reference perhaps to our drive to build our knowledge and test our capacity.

One of the most fascinating and at the same time misunderstood discoveries in all of modern science is the identification of DNA as the molecule of our inheritance. The analysis of this discovery answered so many questions for us and for science but at the same time many, many more questions were inspired! Science had finally found the primer to perhaps the greatest library of all and yet there was so much more to do than just read the volumes. We took for granted when science unlocked some of the secrets in DNA. Now it could be demonstrated to us what traits we might express: What color our eyes would be; What height we might reach; How many fingers we might have; What our chances were for heart-disease. But the less obvious and perhaps more interesting things were to remain locked away in code- Sometimes the code would be shaken enough to give us a few more teasing bits of information. We found out how to identify individuals using only their DNA; We were shown how the relationships between different organisms could now be mapped; And we discovered a little more about our own evolution. Still more questions arose- And that chicken with four legs? Well- maybe there is an answer there afterall-

So what is it that I am doing here-?

I am learning-