When you think of evolution, perhaps you imagine a very long tree of life, extending across millions of years, starting with one-celled creatures and ending with us: human beings (Homo sapiens). But evolution also happens more quickly. The development of antibiotic-resistant species of bacteria is also evolution in action: some of the tiny creatures that cause illnesses in human beings no longer respond to medicine that once cure those illnesses. This challenges doctors and scientists to come up with new ways of protecting people. Evolutionary geneticists like Elizabeth Alter examine DNA and other genetic evidence to help us understand how… Learn more
Nutrition epidemiologists like Alison Gustafson, a registered dietitian, look at the ways the food we eat affects our health and physical activity. They study biology, nutrition, and biostatistics as well as epidemiology, which examines diseases and how they spread. And they help develop ways of improving the diets of large groups of people.
When did human beings first begin using numbers? Where and when did the number “zero” emerge? Who first came up with the idea of doing algebra? Geometry? Calculus? What events and which other discoveries inspired these ideas? And how did they shape the world we live in? People who study the history of mathematics explore just that: the history of math and the different ways it has developed in different places. Historian of Mathematics Amir Alexander finds “the interconnections between mathematics and the broader world of culture, religion, art, and politics” fascinating.
Software architects like Erik Antelman, a software engineer, design large-scale systems of software. For instance, a social network like Facebook might have parts on a phone, other parts on computers, and others on a server. Each of those parts of a system has many layers behind it. Software architects work with all of these parts and their layers, helping build and maintain the system as a whole.
Most of the mass — most of the “stuff” — in the visible universe is made of tiny particles called quarks and gluons. We don’t yet fully understand these particles, found in the nucleus of an atom. Nuclear physicists explore their properties, which give us clues about the history of the universe and the Big Bang and also the movement and interactions of everything around us. Nuclear Physicist Renee Fatemi studies the spin of protons and the particles within them. Her work helps us understand the properties of ordinary matter and the fundamental particles within it.
How does the place you live affect what you eat, the stories you tell, and your relationships with other people? Evolutionary anthropologists study the ways people relate to their environments. Ecologist and Evolutionary Biologist Georgina Cullman studies the ways people think about the conservation of nature.
Physiological ecology is a combination of physiology (the systems within organisms) and ecology (the relationships between organisms and the environment). Physiological ecologists like Manuel Lerdau study the ways plants and soils change in response to their environments.
Software engineers create instructions for computers, making them do something entertaining (like a game) or useful (like an application that helps students and professionals get their work done). Their knowledge of engineering, computer science, and mathematical analysis helps them design, develop, and maintain software. Software Engineer Malik Coates develops programs to help users explore the universe, watch animated movies like How to Train Your Dragon 2, and play games. Software Engineer Erik Antelman, a software architect, works on programs that scan social media for hints of new outbreaks of disease and helps design operating systems for NASA rockets.
Applied Entomology is the study of insects in systems which have an impact on human beings. For example, applied entomologist Sara Bushmann studied wild bees in the blueberry fields of Maine. She belongs to the Entomological Society of America.
Civil Engineers design, build, and help maintain public works (structures like bridges, dams, and buildings created for communities by the government). They create and improve systems to make sure modern societies have drinking water, reliable transportation, a clean environment, and energy. Civil and Water Resource Engineer Cynthia Clark helps design and maintain systems to distribute water among the people of Idaho. Civil Engineer Tysheina Robertson is helping build Denver’s first commuter rail. When Ornithologist Laura Gooch worked as a Civil Engineer, she helped provide Texans with the water they needed and helped clean up toxic waste in Ohio. And Civil Engineer Rachel Davidson studies ways to improve systems that help… Learn more