Developmental Biology

Developmental biology is my favorite part of all the sciences. The topic is so attractive because the problem that needs to be solved is so basic. The problem is so basic that everyone can understand it regardless of their training: we have one cell. How do we make two cells? And then, once we have two cells, how do we make one of those cells the back of the animal and one of those cells the front of the animal? This is a really good problem, isn’t it? These are the kind of problems that biologists and biochemists and geneticists wrestle with. These are the kinds of things that attract us! All the memorization and facts and details and bits that the non-biologists get tired of… all that is just gathering tools to solve these really fantastic interesting problems.

Springtime is my favorite season, because developmental biology is happening everywhere! Plants are growing from seeds to seedlings to grown up, familiar looking plants. Bugs are developing from larvae… they go from looking like caterpillars to looking like familiar insects with wings. The forms that plants and animals go through on their way from being a one-cell creature to being a grown adult creature… Those weird alien looking forms are so interesting! Have you seen a seed sprout? Have you seen those funny pairs of leaves that pop out? Sometimes it isn’t even pair, it’s just one leaf like thing that pops out. These first leaves look like nothing the plant ever makes again. Why do they make these alien weird leaves only that one time?

Developmental biology is one organism trying to solve the problem of how to make another organism. It’s a unique time, a unique set of problems in the organism’s life. It seems to me that every organism answered the question a little differently. Seedlings and larvae and embryos all look a little weirder than the other one. Sure, there are many similarities and you can see the effects of evolution. But I’m always surprised at the diversity of solutions to the problem of how to make a new organism.

It comforts me, this great diversity among seedlings and larvae and embryos. When I’m finding a solution for a problem I’m having in my code, or I’m trying to organize my team, or I’m looking for a way to teach a problem to a student… I realize there are many different ways to solve the same problem. and I realize it doesn’t matter how weird or crazy the solution looks: if it works, it’s perfect.

So today I’m taking inspiration from nature and all the new seedlings and especially the new little bugs that are crawling around in the dirt, hopefully soon to become pollinators… Today I’m taking inspiration from nature that the solutions I’m making to my problems might look weird or awkward and might even look alien compared to what I’m trying to create… but all that doesn’t matter because one day I might have success and the beginning of success, as we see here on our cold spring morning, doesn’t have to look like success.

I’m also taking inspiration from nature and all of its really neat puzzles and really neat problems to solve. I’m convinced that everyone will love biology and biochemistry as much as we do… If we can just present it in the right way. So I’m taking inspiration to keep working on my weird awkward projects to try to bring you a look at biology that will help you appreciate the intricate problems!

Posted in Game Design and Development

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