Sometimes it’s hard to understand why scientists do what they do. Why spend a career studying cells, fungus, or flies? Other than being nerdy and wanting to learn about our world, what’s the point?

Last month I had the opportunity to attend Sunposium, a neuroscience research conference hosted by the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience in West Palm Beach, Florida. I love everything brain-related, so every talk was captivating for me, but through the jargon, methods, and neon images, an incredibly important message shone through: basic research, research that asks fundamental questions about our world is critical to our society. The scientists who presented their research, including two Nobel prize winners and many other young researchers with promising careers, study everything from bacteria to birds to humans. The questions they ask aren’t about how to cure illnesses or treat disease. But the breakthroughs they have made will impact human health in the near future. Basic research is critical to science because it allows for unexpected and unpredictable breakthroughs.

Check out the infographic below to explore what I learned at this incredible conference.


  1. Thank you for the graphic. This is a great general and specific reminder. Applied science seems to get much of the funding but the list of benefits from basic research is impressive.

  2. Very nice piece, thank you Kayleen!
    If we call it FUNDAMENTAL RESEARCH, it is immediately obvious why it has to be done. Without foundation nothing stands. The other important point is that treatment of human disease is only one of many applications of FUNDAMENTAL research. Translation of research results into the daily lives of humans – mostly called ‘transnational research’ – is cool and important but is not fundamental.

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