The Spark Lighting the Way

Curiosity is holy.

The most brilliant mind of the 20th century held intellectual curiosity with an almost divine respect, regarding it as a true beacon of light for humanity illuminating a dark and ignorant world.

"Curiosity has its own reason for existing," Albert Einstein said. "One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality... never lose a holy curiosity."

Try as we might, we are not all going to be as brilliant as Albert Einstein.

But as we in higher education do our work of shaping coursework for students and preparing bright young minds for rewarding careers and exciting new discoveries, we must not forget where it all begins.

With curious questions -- and the sometimes startling and profound answers -- that spark intellectual adventures, vistas of personal self-discovery and new vantage points for looking at the world. It is this parry and thrust of intellectual discourse that furthers the nature of knowledge and inquiry.

So where has curiosity led us at Ohio State?

To the farthest reaches of the planet as we know it...

A thirst to better understand insect physiology drove Ohio State Professor Dave Denlinger to the ends of the known earth. Denlinger spent months a few years ago studying midges in Antarctica as he learned about their composition in order to more effectively control them.

Into the deepest waters of our seas...

Off the coast of Palau in the Pacific diving to depths of more than 100 meters, Ohio State Professor Andrea Grottoli led a team studying the effects of climate change and land use on coral. She hopes to learn ways we can help coral seas -- home to 25 percent of all marine species -- thrive in a changed world.

To the edges of our theoretical, molecular knowledge of the world...

Burrowed deep underground at the French-Swiss border is a 17-mile long collision tunnel where Ohio State physicist Stan Durkin leads a team of Ohio State scientists as part of the biggest physics experiment in the world. Last year, Durkin's team announced they had detected the Higgs boson particle -- the God particle as it's known -- which is thought to give subatomic particles their mass. It may just be the biggest news since the Big Bang.

Into the pathways and neurons of the brain...

Kelly Hunter, a leading theatre actress, has made Ohio State her home as part of a partnership with the Royal Shakespeare Company. She leads a group beginning to explore the Great Bard's work in helping children with autism. Could drama -- particularly Shakespeare -- break though the communicative blocks of autism by linking the rhythm, and sweep of his words, to physical movement? An 18-month study of whether this therapy has long-term benefits is underway right now.

And while curiosity has driven extraordinary research at Ohio State as far and wide as the world reaches, it is not these cutting-edge projects undertaken by leading minds that are our true monument to intellectual curiosity.

Instead, here at Ohio State, it is the countless questions posed by tens of thousands of students each and every day as they pursue what amounts to 1.5 million credit hours in the arts and sciences each year.

It is the philosophy student asking, Why?, and the engineering student asking, Why not? I believe everything learned in college is an answer to a question that someone has posed. Questions get posed differently and the answers that come back transport us to places we never knew existed.

Intellectual curiosity drove Einstein to some of the world's most important discoveries. The noble quest to learn more about our mysterious and marvelous world is why we put our boots on in the morning and come in to work, paint, teach, diagnose, build and plan at Ohio State.

There is no higher calling, and we are proud to devote our lives to it.