October 26, 2015
Hello everyone and welcome to InSCIght! This year, we decided to try an experiment or something new with this new blog; Scinapse isn’t just about a frenzied weekend of putting together a research proposal, it’s about engaging with your world inSCIghtfully. What we want to express is what goes on inside the head of undergraduate science students - inspirations, worries, ideas. Today, we want to kick off by talking about something our team considers a fundamental part of our mission: creativity!
We went around asking various different individuals pursuing different fields of study what they think creativity in science really is. Here are some of the answers we got.
“Creativity in science is coming up with a new way of looking at an existing research question/problem that in turn can lead to a new research direction, a new experiment or a new solution. I call it out-of-the-box thinking….I remember taking a research seminar in Grad School and we spent a whole evening discussing this question, although we were also discussing whether creativity could be taught. Relativity & Chaos could be looked at in this way. Einstein realized that the exiting Newtonian paradigm could not answer no longer answer some questions. He had to look at these issues from a whole new way.”
-Brad Bass, PhD in Geography, co-recipient of Nobel Peace Prize in 2007
“Creativity means the same thing in science as it does in every other human endeavour. The very best scientists, the most creative (nobody wins a Nobel prize for incremental research!), are far more likely to have an artistic 'hobby' than an average scientist. Creative people are creative and, it seems, excel when they have multiple means by which to express that creativity…
Ultimately, creativity comes down to two things in my view:
1) Combinatorics. You make new things by combining things you already know/understand. This part is easy. Give a 5 year old lego, and watch it happen before your eyes.
2) Pruning. Most of the stuff you make in step 1) is absolute crap, so you need to trash it without throwing out the occasional jewels.
The people we call "genius" are the ones who are really good at both steps, but especially step 2.”
-Mark Daley, PhD in Computer Science
“Creativity has the same root as create. Creation is like a chemical reaction in that it combines existing elements in a way that leads to their transformation.
Scientists combine existing ideas, technologies, protocols, materials, cells etc. in a way that transforms our knowledge and enables us to see more deeply into the mystery of the universe.
Just like art.”
-Tom Haffie, First Year Biology Lecturer (UWO)
Speaking of art….
“Creativity is when you study for a grade 12 biology exam like this:
-Charlie Zhao, Scinapse
“If there is one thing I can say about being creative, it’s about using your hard work to beat talent when talent doesn't work hard. You may not be the brightest or the smartest, but you can be the hardest worker in any room. You are not born with creativity. You need to work for it.”
-Omar Moharrem, Software Engineer at IBM
"Doing science is inherently creative. In every new experiment, scientists try to do something that nobody’s ever done before. Sometimes this means combining things in new ways, or applying a known technique to a new situation, or ignoring conventional wisdom when it suggests that what you’re trying to do is impossible. If you’re creative enough, you just might come up with the solution that nobody’s ever thought of before!"
-Dr. Casey Roehrig, Harvard University
The traditional thought that there is a divide between creative areas of study is clearly an adage of the past, but there’s still some debate, even between the people we questioned about whether creativity is innate or learned. What are your thoughts?
-Diana & Osmond