Thursday, December 11, 2014

You can do anything!

Modules 1 and 2 were fun... but module 3 of 20.109 was something else! This module not only introduced the completely new field of biomaterials to us, but it also was a great short coverage on innovation resulting from re-contextualization.

I had heard that Prof. Angela Belcher had revolutionized the fields of materials and energy before this class, but I had no idea how. When we were told that we were going to use bacteriophages to construct a functional solar panel, I thought it was a joke. The idea of using a biological structure to create a long-lasting functional electronic made no sense to me whatsoever. But as the module progressed, and we went through each step of the solar cell construction, I started to think "This is so simple, yet so smart!"

Prof. Belcher's work was inspirational not just due to its innovative nature, but also in the fact that she was able to actually implement it without giving into doubt. This confidence definitely reflected on our proposals. For our final presentation for 109, Alyssa and I decided we wanted to stick with the whole bacteriophage-nanoscale-fabrication thing. And what field other than neurobiology would benefit the most from nanoscale technologies?! (OK maybe a lot of other fields, but we came up with this application, because we're still fascinatied with biology). Our proposal entailed the use of phages to assemble nano-scale multielectrode arrays for neural recording in brain-machine interfaces.

Now this idea was really cool at first. But the more I thought about it, the more implausible it became... Eventually I found myself thinking "There is no way we can make this work". So when we initially pitched our ideas in class, I had zero confidence in what I was saying. It blew my mind when Prof. Blecher was so supportive and confident in this lousy idea. Was our idea actually plausible? I still had my doubts, up until I went to Prof. Belcher's office hours the day before the presentations. Both her and researchers from her lab started pitching in ideas and we started brainstorming like crazy as we watched all our problems evaporate to reveal solutions!

At the end, we had a pretty wholesome and (fairly) realistic idea that we presented on confidently! It was really cool to see that theres no point in being afraid of crazy ideas; theres almost always a way of implementing it.

Thank you Prof. Belcher and the whole 109 staff and students for inspiring me to pursue my crazy ideas!

And since I feel like this post was a little too serious, here's something relevant to lighten up the mood:

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