That is a difficult question to answer, as there are many opposing points of view. There are as many different philosophies and conceptions of science as there are scientists (not to mention sociologists/philosophers of science). Having been exposed to numerous schools of thought, I personally tend towards Falsificationism, a scientific methodology as defined by Karl Popper. In my view, Popper brilliantly outlines what science can and should be. [Feel free to disagree, and if you do, try to convert me to your point of view if you have time. I try to change my mind on a daily basis...]
Why do I study science, its philosophies of knowledge, and all the methods of inquiry utilized by its practitioners? Why has science always been so important to me? The desire to know, to understand, and to explore life's possibilities has always motivated me. By learning about our reality via experiment and experience we ultimately learn more about ourselves and our place in the Universe. "Ultimately, all learning is self-learning. All knowledge is self-knowledge." Remembering the future, all knowledge is recollection.
I want to learn methodologies to help me see the world not only as I expect to see it, but fully acknowledging that so much exists beyond my immediate knowledge and understanding. I believe that acknowledging our ignorance is not the same as retreating from knowledge, but something that empowers us and allows us to thrill in moments of genuine discovery.
I am engaged in the pursuit of science so that I may contribute to society. Of course, I also do it for fun and profit. Discovery, scientific or otherwise, is a great feeling. As Richard Feynman said so truly, "There is nothing more exciting than the truth."
When I was much younger, I used to be interested in astronomy. Eventually, my interests led me to the biological sciences, and events along the way of my education made me decide that if I was to study biology, I wanted to study plants, and cell biology in particular. Plants are great to work with, and work with plants is extremely relevant to our society and our planet, where we depend on plants for life via food, shelter, and countless materials and chemicals.
I decided on cell biology because of my basic interest in what life is, why it is, and where it came from. To me, nothing demonstrates more poignantly the miracle of life than its most basic (but remarkably capable and complete) unit--the cell.
I spent two years as a graduate student at the University of California, Davis studying Plant Biology as a National Science Foundation Plant Cell Biology Training Grant Fellow. In the 1998-1999 school year, I also received funding as an Edward J. Wickson Scholar and as a Henry A. Jastro Fellow. I entered UC Davis as a Ph.D. student, but eventually decided to pursue a Master's degree instead (see below). I have also conducted plant biology research as an undergraduate at Cornell University and as a high-schooler at UC Davis (summer of '93).
As of Fall 2001, I am a graduate student in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. I have been interested in science first and foremost as a philosophy and as something practiced by individuals and collectives. In an effort to more fully understand science, I wanted experience at the front lines of cutting edge research in the natural sciences, so I pursued (and very much enojyed) undergraduate and graduate studies in Plant Biology (Cell and Molecular Biology). I never forgot, however, that while studying the phenomena of the natural world, I was also studying science itself--its institutions, protocols, history, and all the various unique individuals who identified themselves as scientists. When it came time to decide how far I wanted to take my Plant Biology education, I ultimately chose to earn my Masters degree instead of continuing on for my PhD. Instead of spending three to four more years in Plant Biology, I decided to follow my greater aspirations and apply to a program in Science and Technology Studies.
I am fully committed to studying what science is, how and why it works (or doesn't work in certain circumstances), and how it can be used to better society, while being cautious and aware of its pitfalls. At this time, I am primarily (but not exclusively) interested in studying issues regarding the rapid acquisition of information and knowledge, its effects on perceptions of individual self-identity, its behavioral consequences, and its broader sociological effects. It is a vast topic encompassing many different ideas, but some directions I'd like to pursue include: the history and sociology of revolutions of knowledge, the historical and present use of various scientific models as means of self-definition, and ethnographic studies of cultural and subcultural strategies that people have adopted in attempts to make the best of our knowledge-rich yet confusing times. On a related note, I am also interested in the evolution and design of information spaces, such as computer networks, libraries, and schools. Finally, with my background in the biological sciences (and biotechnology in particular), I hope to contribute useful perspectives on issues related to the definition of human life and of nature itself.
Whatever I do, I hope I'll have the opportunity to improve the public's understanding of science.
I believe that everything is worth studying. The secrets of the Universe can be found in a drop of water. What you study is a matter of choice, preference, and oftentimes necessity. Remember: Science is a method of inquiry, not what you inquire about. "One measures a circle, beginning anywhere."-Charles Fort.
Starting in the Spring of 1997 and until the Summer of 1998, I was an undergraduate and postgraduate researcher in the lab of Prof. Robert Turgeon.
In the Summer of 1998, I worked in the lab of Prof. Neelima Sinha as a rotating graduate student.
During the Fall of 1998, I rotated in the lab of Prof. Charles Gasser.
During the Winter of 1999, I rotated in the lab of Prof. Clark Lagarias.
During the Spring of 1999, I rotated in the lab of Prof. Rich Nuccitelli.
In the Summer of 1999, I became a permanent member of the Lagarias lab, finishing my M.S. degree work in October of 2000.
One activity I enjoy is reading and writing critical essays, articles, and communications on a variety of subjects. Of all the features of the Internet, I find myself most absorbed in reading the thoughts of others, critically analyzing those thoughts, and offering my own in return. Usenet is an ideal forum for discussion that allows more depth and detail than real-time conversation, but also generates feedback more quickly than the web does (or other print media). For scientists, it is an excellent place to hone one's critical reading and writing skills because, even though there are many individuals out there who have an empirical mindset, there are more individuals who absolutely do not, and one learns much about oneself when dealing with other types of people and learning how to communicate with them. [Google Groups (formerly DejaNews) is a good web-based starting point for people new to the wilds of Usenet, and is also an excellent resource for those experienced with it or for searchers of truly esoteric information.]Here are a few interesting documents that I found (on Usenet or on the Web):
(The views espoused in the following documents are not necessarily my own)Evolution FAQ part 1
Evolution FAQ part 2
Evolution FAQ part 3
Will Provine debates Phillip Johnson (transcript)
Will Provine: corruptor of Cornell undergrads?