Looking at life with curiosity and being open to new ways of thinking was a key part of Latif Nasser’s speech, which combined scientific ideas with intellectual inquiry.
When Nasser started school at Dartmouth College, he was amazed by the amount of information available to him. “I learned that I was curious about a thing I never even knew existed,” Nasser said of attending speeches throughout his college career.
Nasser’s speech took place at Radford University on February 21. In his talk, Nasser intended to make science exciting and give students inspiration to take advantage of every experience afforded them at Radford.
Working as a director at Radiolab, Nasser’s job is to be curious. Telling unusual stories is part of what he does best and in his speech, he shared two stories with two important lessons. The first story detailed the surprising history of the modern-day camel. The animal first appeared in North America and was originally built for surviving cold weather. The camel’s broad feet allowed it to walk over the snow and its hump contained fat to help it get through the 6-month long winter. “Later, [the camel] retrofitted those winter features for a hot desert environment,” Nasser explained. This story proves the value of open-mindedness to ideas. “At any one moment, at any place, you could find one tiny scrap of evidence…that forces you to reframe everything you thought you knew,” he said.
The next story Nasser told involved Christina Lee and Freya Harrison, two women who met at an Old English book club, who combined history and microbiology to make a startling discovery: a potion made a thousand years ago meant for curing staph infections worked on modern day bacterial infections. Though the cure has not yet been tested on humans, the women said this discovery shows that bacteria can lose its resistance to certain drugs over time, and in today’s world, when bacteria can quickly grow resistant to new drugs, developing a process of resting a drug and then using it again later could be helpful. This story urges individuals to combine their different interests and “make connections only [they] can make,” as a person never knows what they may find.
In his closing statement, Nasser reminded the audience to be on the lookout for new ideas and always remember the importance of curiosity. As one of his college professors told him, “Not only have 99 % of those interesting questions in the world not been answered, 99 % of the most interesting questions in the world haven’t even been asked yet.”