Seeds of Science

Two hundred newly planted tulips wavered in the early spring breeze. I shifted uncomfortably in the cold.

The temperature was going to drop below freezing that night, killing off any plant unfortunate enough to be outside, including the tulips. Next to me, my dad surveyed the backyard looking for a solution. “The dryer,” said my father. He pointed to a vent on the outside of our house. “The hot air from the dryer comes out of there. So how can we use it?” he asked me.

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“Maybe we use a tube to connect it to a room around the tulips? We could make a type of greenhouse,” I suggested. “Now you’re thinking,” said my dad encouragingly. The rest of the afternoon the two of us gathered material and created what looked like a giant grocery bag to cover the tulips and the exhaust vent. It was almost dark when we were securing the tent. I ran inside to turn on the dryer. The crinkled transparent plastic began to billow, smoothing out as it expanded over the currents of warm air.

The tulips were the only plants to survive the frost. Growing up, my dad always had me help him around the house as he tackled various odd jobs. By helping, I don’t mean that I would just stand and hold the flashlight. They were always interactive lessons. He never missed an opportunity to explain why we used needle nose pliers or how a circuit breaker works. He made sure to ask how I would solve the problem and why.

After studying to be a biomedical engineer, and then working as the Director of Safety and Clinical Engineering at Rush North Shore Hospital, my dad knows the value of problem solving in life. Through him I gained a love of fixing and creating that would propel my studies and interests. In high school I had my first interaction with lab-based science classes. The material was new, challenging, and interesting. The methodology I used with my dad was easily applied here.

By the time I was half-way through my AP Physics course, I was certain that I wanted science to be in my future. When I told my dad, he was very excited. “You know, if you really like physics, you should look at careers in engineering,” he told me. He took out some of his old textbooks and explained how his job took the concepts and rules he learned in science to create new things. He talked about his role in developing artificial limbs and other advancements in medical technology.

The tulips weren’t the only ones that owed their lives to my dad. Hearing him talk about the possibilities and unexplored avenues in biomedical engineering sealed the deal. My dad and I sat in the basement discussing the future of medical technology and where my place was in it all. Whether it was by saving tulips, re-wiring a lamp, or by simply encouraging my creativity and curiosity, my dad’s presence in my life has kindred a love of science and development. By working alongside him, he taught me that not only can every problem be solved, but that I can be the one to solve it.