Restless genes drove my interest in science journalism. DRD4, a gene involved in dopamine release, was the principal character in David Dobbs’ story entitled “Restless Genes” featured in National Geographic’s 125th anniversary edition on the age of exploration. Those who possess the quest-seeking variant of this gene, scientists say, are compelled to explore.
While flying to Madagascar to study lemurs in their natural habits, the magazine in my hands, something clicked. This story summed up what made me want to be a scientist: the need to know. The compulsion to understand lemur behavior at its most fundamental core, the urge to find out where in the depths of human creativity a brilliant research idea bubbled from, the yearning to understand how differences in human populations drive the evolution of society—this curiosity is a defining part of my identity.
But something also connected in terms of how Dobbs’ coverage of modern day explorers drew me in and found a way to amaze and excite me – not just as a scientist, but also as a reader. I realized that not only did I want to understand how the world works, but also why the world works. I recognized that my passion lies in sharing the human stories beneath the science.
Those stories are the why.