Today's Knowledge, Tomorrow's Decisions
I am pleased and honored to introduce the 2012 edition of Teknos, the journal of the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. This impressive report on original and innovative research projects is a testament to the mission of the school and to the efforts of its students.
As the Director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, one of the components of the National Institutes of Health, I am all too familiar with the many challenges facing our nation as they relate to health. Yet, I am heartened by the tremendous strides that researchers have made in expanding strides that researchers have made in expanding our understanding of the causes of and potential treatments for many common, chronic, and costly diseases that afflict millions of people in this country and around the world. I also know that the vitality and continues success of our national research enterprise rest in large measure with aspiring scientists at Thomas Jefferson—U.S. News and World Report's 2011 Number 1 "Gold Medal" School—and other talented and creative students around the world.
Medical advances come from a knowledge base generated by fundamental research. For example, new technologies have allowed scientists to identify genes that increase risk of developing numerous diseases, including diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and kidney disease. Discoveries like these are key to understanding the fundamental biological causes of illness, identifying individuals who are at risk before they get sick, developing testing and disease prevention strategies, and personalizing treatment for patients based on their unique genetic profiles.
Where do these discoveries some from? They come from the work of inquisitive and dedicated people who are open to new ideas and new ways of doing things. More and more, medicine draws not just from discoveries in biology, but in chemistry, physics, engineering, computer sciences, communications, and a host of other scientific and technological fields. Many of the scientists NIH supports today are part of multidisciplinary teams, reaching out to researchers in other fields to tackle challenging biomedical problems. Others create for themselves new, interdisciplinary pursuits, for examples combining a love of biology with a love of math to create algorithms that can drive the function of medical devices meant to mimic normal physiology, such as insulin secretion by the human pancreas.
The process of discovery is hard work, fueled by passion for one's subject. I encourage you to follow your interests and dreams so you can become the best scientist, physician, engineer, software developer—or whatever profession you choose—you can be. Whether you're finding new cures for diseases, treating patients, developing the next technological breakthrough, or doing something that we haven't thought of yet, you'll be engaged in a rewarding process where you get to pose important questions, solve difficult puzzles, and know the satisfaction of a job well done.
Research is as much about what will be discovered tomorrow as what is learned today. Much of what we know now will be overtaken by newer of more refined information in just a few years. So, no matter what your future holes, I also encourage you to cultivate a lifelong interest in learning: your desire to look for and pursue the next question will be your most important asset.
As demonstrated by this journal, you, the students of Thomas Jefferson, are using important skills attained from your years of study—how to gather and analyze data, think critically, formulate and test hypotheses, interpret results, and imagine the next steps—to pursue intriguing scientific questions. I congratulate the authors and hope to see many of these names again in the future, attached to discoveries that will bring us closer to a world free of disease and in which all can prosper and pursue their dreams.
Griffin P. Rogers, M.D., M.A.C.P.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
National Institutes of Health