Samuel S. Myers (far left) and Aaron Bernstein are interested in the bigger picture. Both enrolled in interdisciplinary programs in college and moved on to medical school. But even their medical school and residency experiences were untraditional. Myers enlarged his view of the world by taking a two-year break from his medical residency at the University of California, San Francisco, when Tibetan officials invited him to become the health administrator of Qomolangma (Everest) National Park. There he taught basic health care and conservation practices to villagers living within the national park. Now an instructor and doctor at Harvard Medical School, Myers studies the effect of climate change on human health. Bernstein attended the University of Chicago’s medical school program, which, unlike any others at the time, integrated its medical school with its division of biological sciences. “I would often take classes with people getting PhDs in cell biology,” he says....
The first day of university made an indelible impression on a young David Nutt—now a professor of neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London—who remembers one of his fellow medical students “wailing and sobbing for hours” after getting drunk. “From that point on I was interested in how drugs can have such a remarkable effect on brain function.” Nutt went on to take a post as Britain’s chief drug adviser, but was forced to resign in October 2009, shortly after publishing a study claiming that alcohol was more detrimental to society than were illegal drugs such as LSD and ecstasy. In this month’s Thought Experiment he proposes a science-based solution: “Rather than trying to deal with the problem of alcohol, why don’t we try to replace it with something much safer?” Nutt spends what leisure time he has tending to his apple orchards in his native Bristol.
Rob Carlson, author of Biology is Technology: The Promise, Peril, and New Business of Engineering Life, published in 2010, has always harbored a curiosity for biology and a knack for tinkering, which is why he calls the burgeoning field of synthetic biology a “natural fit.” As this month’s Critic at Large, he cautions against excessive regulation that aims to thwart the hypothetical evils of synthetic biology, arguing they may instead hinder innovations that could lead to things such as efficient biofuels and rapid-response vaccines. “In biology it’s probably at least as hard to do something bad as it is to do something good,” he says. “It’s probably a lot harder.” Carlson earned a PhD in physics from Princeton and was a senior scientist in the University of Washington’s electrical engineering department before founding Biodesic, an engineering, consulting, and design firm based in Seattle.
While majoring in American literature at the University of Kent (UKC) in Canterbury, England, Lucy Reading decided to leave cloudy skies behind and spend a year abroad in sunny Santa Cruz, California. There, she finally allowed herself to indulge her secret passion: illustration. “I couldn’t deny it, I wanted to be an artist,” she says. During her year abroad, Reading sat in on illustration classes in her free time. After finishing her degree at UKC, Reading returned to University of California, Santa Cruz to formally study scientific illustration. On one lucky day, says Reading, Edward Bell, the former art director at Scientific American, chose her for a two-month internship with the magazine. Reading eventually landed a job as a freelancer for SciAm, and moved to New York City with her husband. She is excited to join the staff of The Scientist as senior designer.