Explore This IssueJune 2011
CHICAGO — Triological Society President Gerald Berke, MD, turned to the words of science greats in his President’s Address, delivering an inspirational talk on scientific research at the society’s Annual Meeting, held here on April 29 as part of the Combined Otolaryngology Spring Meetings.
He told the audience that, while diligence and hard work are essential in research, so are a sense of wonder and an open mind.
Dr. Berke delivered rapid-fire quotations to drive home his points on topics from motivation to the process of research, from methodology to the importance of questioning in science.
“So many have contributed to our society that I thought it would be a useful exercise to see what scientific attributes our members and researchers should strive for,” said Dr. Berke, chief of the head and neck surgery division at the University of California Los Angeles.
On Research Motivation
His favorite quotes: “I am on the verge of mysteries, and the veil which covers them is getting thinner and thinner. The nights seem to me too long.” (La Vie de Pasteur, René Vallery-Radot)
“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.” (Albert Einstein)
Dr. Berke’s take: “Pretty heady words from Professor Einstein.”
The Process of Research
His favorite quotes: “Basic research is what I am doing when I don’t know what I am doing.” (Wernher Von Braun)
“If we knew what we were doing it wouldn’t be research.” (Einstein)
“Every honest researcher I know admits he’s just a professional amateur. He’s doing whatever he’s doing for the first time. That makes him an amateur. He has sense enough to know that he’s going to have a lot of trouble, so that makes him a professional.” (Charles Franklin Kettering)
Dr. Berke’s take: “Many young people seem to think that the process is very formalized, with formal logic and formal reason. But as you read them [the quotes], you realize that, for the most part, they’re just trying out new ideas and concepts.”
On the Scientific Method
His favorite quotes: “… it doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are—if it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.” (R. P. Feynman)