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How does fundamental research help you?

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: fundamental or 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. Fundamental 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.


Kayleen Schreiber

Kayleen is obsessed with the brain. After majoring in neuroscience at Vanderbilt University, she went straight to a PhD program in neuroscience at the University of Iowa. She currently studies how our brains process speech. She measures electrical changes produced by the brain to understand how the gender of a person talking influences how we hear their speech. Outside the lab, she works to get others excited about science and occasionally plays the bassoon.

4 thoughts on “How does fundamental research help you?

  • March 15, 2017 at 10:49 am

    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.

  • March 15, 2017 at 11:28 am

    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.

    • April 3, 2017 at 2:47 am

      I agree that ‘fundamental’ would be a better fit than ‘basic’. Regardless, this is a fantastic infographic.

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