National Public Radio science correspondent Shankar Vedantam spoke to students Wednesday about the importance of passion in research.
He delivered the keynote speech in the Mandela Room to kick off Binghamton’s annual Research Days.
Vedantam joined NPR in 2011, and spent the previous 10 years reporting on human behavior and social sciences for The Washington Post. He is the author of several books and his work has been featured on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report.”
As a science correspondent for NPR, Vedandam has an appreciation for the impact research has had on himself and others.
“Research is an essential part of my life,” Vedantam said. “If there wasn’t a body of research coming out, if new knowledge wasn’t being created all the time, I would be out of a job. So, I have a very simple and practical reason for celebrating research.”
In his lecture, Vedantam discussed how BU can continue to better itself and one day compete with the country’s top research schools.
“Bing has long been considered a Public Ivy, and I know that there has been a major push in recent years to put Bing on the national map in terms of visibility in terms of its research,” he said. “And one of the things I have been thinking about is how that happens, how does a university actually get on the map?”
He told students to take their own initiative and find professors who are dedicated and passionate about their research to mentor them and help them find success.
“Very often what they are teaching you in class is not what they are researching,” Vedantam said. “What they are really passionate about is what you don’t hear about in the class and what they are instead researching on the side.”
Vedantam doesn’t think it is a matter of talent that helps people find their niche in research, but rather a question of searching and trying different things.
“When we see people who are really successful there is an illusion that all you have to do is be talented and you will eventually find your niche,” Vedantam said. “I believe this is certainly not the case. I believe there are large numbers of people who should be doing something because that is what they were designed to do, but they haven’t discovered that that’s their niche, so they don’t do it.”
He closed the night by urging researchers to pursue their interests and try to find their specific talents.
“As the boundaries of research have spread outward, there are many, many more niches for us to occupy,” Vedantam said. “And so part of what I think [Binghamton] is doing right now in trying to build this culture of excellence and having events like Research Days, is to basically generate a system that allows students to find that niche … I hope that for each of you that you will find your niche where you can be a superstar.”
More than 50 people attended the event, which was sponsored by Academic Affairs, Division of Research, McNair Scholars Program and the Undergraduate Research Center.
Rafael Schulman, a freshman majoring in integrative neuroscience, enjoyed the presentation and his emphasis on improving BU.
“The title of the speech was awesome and looked very interesting,” Schulman said. “I know Binghamton is looking for sustained excellence, so I think the speech was relevant to Binghamton’s mission as a whole, and the whole direction of the science department. I really hope we follow through with some of his ideas.”