• Question: Have you ever made any big discoveries/breakthroughs?

    Asked by Rosie on 7 Dec 2021.
    • Photo: Danielle Nader

      Danielle Nader answered on 9 Nov 2021:

      Plenty of smaller discoveries will eventually lead to your ‘Eureka!’ moment in science.

      For example, my 1st – 3rd years involved studying how microbes could actually attach to our cells. Once I figured that process out, I started using a drug that could prevent this from happening.

      So when COVID started, I figured, could this drug also prevent the virus from attaching to our cells? And it could!! That was my biggest breakthrough.

    • Photo: Henry Darch

      Henry Darch answered on 9 Nov 2021:

      Sadly, not yet 😉

      Strictly speaking, every scientist’s experiments are unique in some way, and so when we look at our data, it is something new that no one else has ever seen or known before. But 99% of the time it’s not so interesting to everyone (except other scientists studying the same things) that you get to see it on the evening news.

    • Photo: Reabetswe Zwane

      Reabetswe Zwane answered on 9 Nov 2021:

      I love this question Rosie! I have not made big discoveries in my own research but I have made many tiny new discoveries and breakthroughs. You will find that in science/research, your work is like moving along a cog of a giant wheel. It is important to recognize those tiny discoveries/breakthroughs as important as big ones. Often, groundbreaking discoveries are as a result of many tiny breakthroughs.

    • Photo: Anita Pax

      Anita Pax answered on 9 Nov 2021:

      No, but plenty of small ones. In my experience a ‘big discovery’ is rare, but it’s often the small ones that might eventually lead to a big one!

    • Photo: Cyrille Thinnes

      Cyrille Thinnes answered on 10 Nov 2021:

      I have not made a single big discovery myself, but I was very lucky to be able to work with amazing teams and contribute to smaller discoveries which were all part of a bigger discovery. For example, I was able to work on projects to understand how our bodies respond to a lack of oxygen in a team which was later awarded the Nobel prize in medicine!

      I would argue it is very rare that there is ‘one big discovery’. Rather, there are many small steps leading to a bigger discovery. You cannot jump up the Grand Canyon from the bottom to the top: you will need to find a track and then walk up step by step.

    • Photo: Pawel Rulikowski

      Pawel Rulikowski answered on 11 Nov 2021:

      Hi Rosie,
      As my fellow scientists pointed out, it is very rare to make big discovery worthy Nobel Prize or alike but this should not stop you from doing what you are doing. My hero scientist is Richard Feynman who was no doubt brilliant scientist (he received Nobel prize in physics) but he worked on the problems because they were interesting to him and his colleagues, he called it: “the pleasure of finding out of things” – the video where he talks about Nobel prize and what it means to do research (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f61KMw5zVhg&list=PLS8LbL7GIZiAHmR64oluOWzz1igsXU6GG&index=6).
      I did discovery many things for myself, I had a few interesting publications but the joy of finding out things is immense, and they do not need to be BIG. The first thing to do is to look around you carefuly, slow down and you will start seeing things that are normally hidden from sight.