by Caitrín Crudden
Remember those childhood summers that seemed to go on for eternity? The memories of which are tinged in yellow, blurry and warm?
The field next to my childhood home had long summer grass that grew far above a child’s head, and so pushing through it (sorry Mr. Farmer) felt like you were deep inside an overgrown jungle. Transported to an immense world of adventure and mystery, between four hedgerows. One of those endlessly long summer days, I was rambling away from the house for a curiously long time. Suspicious of mischief, and probably with good reason, my parents rumbled my ploy and discovered the reason behind my solidarity. I had found a dead field mouse in the long grass. Teenie-tiny, with perfectly formed pink fingers and toes, and its fur – the kind of soft that you can’t resist to stroke across your face (I was not of the squeamish-child variety).
Engrossed by it, I had decided to keep it as my new pet. He/she “lived” (posthumously) in the front pocket of my dungarees for the rest of the day, mannequin-ed perfectly to pop its little soft head and two front paws out over the denim pouch, and observe the wonderous world with me. My co-explorer in todays other-world (in-the-next-field) expedition. My first inquiry into the phenomenal natural world, and I was hooked.
Let’s do them justice
It took that little girl, searching for life in the dirt, with an museum of evolution in her pocket, nearly two decades to put a word to what she wanted to be. Didn’t know she could be a Scientist. Never knew that was a job, let alone a job for her. There are generations after generations of kids who need to see themselves somewhere. No child is born with a pocket guide to potential career paths. They absorb what we show them. They learn from the world that they live in, the world we present to them. Let’s do them justice. Let’s teach every child that the curiosity they harbor is worth everything, that it shouldn’t be stifled. That it is the greatest gift in the world, and that the world needs it and needs them.
Let’s fill their world with the joy
We face immense challenges, as our population swells, pandemics surge and some of our most important drugs wane in their utility. We need these next generations. Their insights, their innovation and their passion. Let’s fill their world with the joy and respect and wonder that science holds. Let’s put Scientists on their TV. Encourage their questions. Let’s read, and write, and talk and consume it. Let’s tell bedtime stories of real human endeavors that grip and inspire far beyond princesses-stuck-in-castle-fairytales. We need to teach them that fascination isn’t something to be grown out of, nor is it roped-off for only those with family histories of academia.
My science success story is that I ended up as a Scientist. Not any cool results, exciting discovery or career high that is to come, but getting here, to this point, despite all odds. Let’s make it so that the next little girl, in dirty dungarees, searching for life in the grassy underworld, so hooked on wonder that she’s forgotten dinnertime, doesn’t need to wait her whole life to know where she is needed.
About the author:
Dr. Caitrín Crudden is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellow at the Amsterdam University Medical Centre in the Netherlands. A native of Ireland, she attended University in England and obtained her PhD from Karolinska Institute, Stockholm. She is interested in how cells communicate and how we can hijack these processes for effective anti-cancer therapies. She is currently working on the role and potential of extracellular vesicles as cancer communication channels.