“You’re Doing Something That Will Advance Society”

My name is Justin Farlow. We’re at UCSF,
University of California at San Francisco. I’ve been here for at this point six years
and in particular our laboratory is geared towards understanding the mechanisms of breast
cancer and then understanding the mechanisms of communication between cells and how that
communication can be, can go wrong and how that communication can be fixed and how that
communication can be restored. It’s a job that feels good to do. You’re going to help,
you’re doing nothing but helping people. It’s very difficult to do this in a malicious way
or you’re always doing something that will advance society. In graduate school you, there are a number
of different phases. There are the phases where you are doing experiments. And you’re
actually seeing results and on those days when you come into lab and things are working,
which is actually fairly rare but when things do work and you sit on the microscope and
especially in my case I’m actually watching individuals move around, then I get to see
things that nobody has ever seen before. I get to understand something that is very visual,
very obvious and again I’m the first person in the world to see that. And that’s interesting.
And it’s fun to be able to then share that with other people. Then there are significant
days where you’re not doing a lot of lab work and you’re not doing fancy experiments. But
you’re doing research and you’re learning new things that other people have gone out
there and discovered. And finally there were a significant number of days where I teach
or I’m presenting my work to somebody and I was, that was fulfilling to me to again
to be able to take the discoveries that I had made, put them in the context of the discoveries
that other people have made and present those to somebody else to teach them what I’ve done
or what has been done so all of those are rewarding. My mother is a music director, teaches orchestra.
My father is an attorney. I’ve always been interested in seeing how things work, not
particularly in scientific mechanisms but just seeing how things work, be they social
mechanisms like a government or be there, I grew up outdoors in the woods of Indiana
so seeing just how an animal and ecosystem works and I found that, and just keep asking
more and more questions, you just keep having to take more and more school. But things also
keep getting more and more interesting. And so in that, our basic questions will allow
us to understand fundamental concepts with respect to cancer, disease and organization
of a human body. Being a researcher takes a significant amount
of time and dedication. And there are days where you work significantly harder than you
think you might. But on the other hand we have significant flexibility. We have the
ability to spend a week or two at a coffee shop doing our research. And it is. We’re
actually doing hard core science in a coffee shop. And so there’s something rewarding about
being able to do that. Personally again I grew up in the woods so I like spending time
outside, spending time and San Francisco’s pretty nice because within an our or two you
can be at the ocean, you could be at the mountains, you could be at the redwood forests. So I
enjoy that. Additionally I always liked working with my hands and so a friend and I built
a rally car, sort of off road racing car which we take every once in awhile and enter races
in it. And we built a roll cage in the car and we’ve been able to race it and so that’s
been pretty cool. So we do some other things outside a lab. Basic science and curiosity
in and of itself I think is sometimes undervalued or the impact that you can have just by being
curious can be significant and you don’t know what that impact is and if you just rely on
the, the fact that you don’t know, rely on the fact that you are ignorant about what
might come about, the creativity that you invest into your project is sufficient to
learn something interesting. There will be significant impact. It just may not be obvious.”

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