Brainstorming with Andre

I find starting new projects to be very difficult. Most times I end up with several false starts before making any progress. Chances are this blog would have gone through at least three false starts before ending up in Andre’s inbox (Andre is one of the Smithsonian’s Science Education Center Curriculum Developer and my supervisor). This used to annoy me. Somedays it still does, especially when I have deadlines to make. But, I have learned that false starts are all a part of the process. Thankfully I have found a very useful technique to help minimize false starts–brainstorming.

I used to think brainstorming was a waste of time. Why sit down and figure what I want to say or do or write? Why not just do it? Why waste time with an extra step when most of my thoughts and ideas will be cast by the wayside? In my stubbornness, I end up wasting more time starting and restarting than I would have if I just brainstormed from the beginning. Brainstorming allows thoughts and ideas to flow without the added pressure of having to see an idea through from beginning to end. Brainstorming allow creativity to take hold. Brainstorming can help make clear what may work and what may not. Brainstorming saves time. My appreciation for brainstorming is what made my second meeting with Andre so exhilarating.

During this meeting, Andre and I met to discuss the current SSEC Mosquito! Curriculum and to gain a better understanding of what SSEC is looking for with my joint internship with J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) and how I can help facilitate things. What was supposed to be a meeting turned into a very productive impromptu brainstorming session. During this time, I learned more about what has already been done with the mosquito module by SSEC, including the driving questions: How could we ensure health for all in our local community from mosquito borne diseases? I also walked away with several possible ideas on how JCVI and I can assist SSEC with their curriculum development.

As I headed home that day, I began thinking about the wonderful world of science and how many false starts occur before discoveries are made and change is seen. Take Zika for example. It’s not a new disease. The virus was first discovered in the Zika Forest of Uganda in 1947. Five   years later in 1952, the first human case was identified. Between 1969 and 2013 zika spread from Africa to Asia to the Pacific Islands. It wasn’t until the 2015 outbreak in Brazil occurred, resulting in babies born with microcephaly before scientists, and public health professionals, began to look more closely at this emerging infectious disease. Now that Zika has caught the attention of people worldwide, scientists, doctors, educators, environmentalists and professionals from multiple disciplines are franticly trying to understand the virus, the disease caused by the virus, and how to prevent further outbreaks and treat those already affected.

Three years since the 2015 outbreak and we are still trying to figure out best practices for treatment and prevention. The world of science has had several false starts with Zika. Through my internship I am learning that false starts are a part of the process. There are many steps involved in a research project; even before a project can begin. Surprisingly enough, even the great minds of science use brainstorming to minimize false starts. The wonderful thing about brainstorming, you can do it anytime, anywhere, with anyone.

I challenge those interested in research, not only science-based research, to brainstorm how we can ensure health for all in our local community from mosquito borne diseases. Feel free to share your ideas.

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About the Author

Francine Baker
Intern, Smithsonian Science Education Center and J. Craig Venter Institute

Francine Baker is a recent graduate from the University of Maryland, College Park School of Public Health and a rising Public Health Scientist. Her interest in science began at an early age when she first learned about the tiniest particles that make up the world around us – atoms. This sparked her love for chemistry. As she learned more about the inner workings of the human body, biological science became her new love. Her interest in public health stems from having two children with sickle cell disease, a chronic genetic blood disorder. Educating herself and her children on the disease is what lead her to the University of Maryland School of Public Health. Her love of biological science combined with her desire to improve the health of her children, and others, is the driving force behind her aspirations as a Public Health Scientist.