The kids are all right

Sometimes I wonder if there has ever been a time when those of us in the establishment didn’t complain about The Youth, and their lack of education, skills, stick-to-it-ive-ness…you name it. Somehow, I always feel kind of left out during these conversations/rants, because every summer I have student interns, mostly college kids, come and work in my lab. They are consistently hard-working, intelligent, diligent, ethical, and are genuinely nice human beings. We are training them to be the next generation of scientists. Even though our internship program is highly competitive, the majority won’t end up doing cutting edge research, but chances are they will be productive members of society, many in science or technology related fields. Ten years from now, hopefully, a few will help shift whatever the paradigm of the day is, and some others will be teaching the next generation of kids about how cool science is.

It’s kind of funny because from where I sit now, they always seem kind of dumb, and have a hard time understanding the simplest things, like chemolithoautotrophy. But when I try to stretch my memory back over all those years to when I was an early 20-something, I don’t remember being as smart and confident as they seem, and I’ll admit, I didn’t really understand chemolithoautotrophy until I was somewhere in my early 30’s. I guess what I’m trying to say is that 30 years out, the world may be in better hands than it is today.

You can check out a video from one of thus summer’s projects made entirely by the students – The dude in the video was actually my student. In my lab he worked on bacteria that eat nails (literally), I had no idea he knew anything about oyster parasites, or malaria, or electroporation, or had a few acting chops. Clever guy.

And by the way, NO these kids ARE NOT engineering a parasite that will give oysters (or the people who eat them) malaria; however this research they have started might someday make a vaccine for malaria. And someday is a lot of years and hard work from now. Who knew.

David Emerson

About David Emerson

David Emerson is a professional scientist at the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences who studies bacteria that live literally between a rock and a hard place. The views expressed here are his alone.