As children, curious to know and understand the world around us, we turned to our parents for answers. We bombarded them with “Why?” until we were lucky to get a “Because!” It didn’t take us long to figure out “because” isn’t really an answer, so we set out to explore the world on our own, looking for information, explanations, reasons, even just clues. We searched and re-searched.
Curiosity is a natural part of being human, and it drives the research that pervades every corner of our lives. Buying a car? Research. Choosing a college? Research. Dating? Definitely research. We never lose that sense of curiosity, though we pursue it in different ways and to different degrees: How many tracks did Springsteen lay down in recording “Born to Run”? What was Robert E. Lee’s strategy at Gettysburg when he sent 13,000 of his best men across a mile of open field and straight into the heart of the Army of the Potomac? Can my father’s lineage really be traced to Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce?
“Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose. It is a seeking that he who wishes may know the cosmic secrets of the world....” So wrote Zora Neale Hurston, an African-American novelist, short story writer, folklorist, playwright, anthropologist, and clearly someone who would have known that research is asking questions: Who? What? When? Where? How? And the big one: Why?
This issue of The Scene explores the “why” behind the research, especially in the sciences, being conducted by Willamette students, alumni and faculty. For three Carson Scholars, it’s to discover the secrets of Roman aqueducts, preserving wetlands and creating alternative fuel. For two young alumni, it’s to find clues to human behavior and the cure for prostate cancer. Psychology’s Meredy Goldberg Edelson might explain it’s to uncover the lack of research behind autism research. And perhaps biology’s David Craig would answer that it’s to enhance the survival of terns and salmon and to help researchers build a network to help each other with research. And just when the thought of research seems overwhelming, retiring mathematician Junpei Sekino might simply say it’s to prove that numbers can be beautiful.
Why do we put so much time and energy into finding out why? Because we want to learn.
Why do we want to learn? Because we want to make the world a better place.
Why do we want to make the world a better place? It turns out “because” is a real answer after all.
The Scene Takes Silver and Bronze
While Americans were adding up the nation’s Olympic medal count, the Office of Communications was keeping track of medals awarded for printed and electronic communications by District VIII of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. When the judging was over, Willamette took home 10 awards, tied with Oregon State University and second only to the University of Washington. Willamette won more awards than any other private institution in the district.
The Scene online took silver in the electronic media category, while The Scene magazine took bronze in the competition for periodicals with a circulation of 20,000 or more. The final tally: four gold, two silver and four bronze awards for design of printed materials, photography and online journals and magazines. CASE District VIII is the largest district in the nation and includes more than 120 colleges and universities in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Alaska and western Canada.
The Scene team is doing a little research of our own by conducting a survey to find out what our readers want to see in the magazine. If you’re one of those randomly selected for the survey, please take a moment to fill it out and return it. We’ll use your comments to help us reshape The Scene in both design and content.