What is the future of Science at Ursinus?

The Dynamic Nature of Research Today Means An Interdisciplinary Approach is Crucial. We asked Stanford University’s Craig Heller, a 1965 Ursinus graduate, what he thinks about the Big Picture in Science.

Biology as an undergraduate discipline will be as different 10 years from now, as it is now different from 10 years ago, says Heller.

“But it is evolutionary change in the sense that as we learn more, there is more we don't know,” Heller says. “What we can expect is that interdisciplinary approaches will become more important. By interdisciplinary I mean both between the sub-disciplines of biology and between biology and the other natural sciences and engineering. More and more we are dependent on technology to give us new tools to answer biological questions, and every time there is a new tool, the field jumps ahead. Within biology we are appreciating more and more that answers are generally not found at specific levels of inquiry. Thus, you cannot understand the brain at the molecular level, at the cellular level, or at the circuit level. The answers are between and among the different levels of organization that we tend to use for structuring our discipline.”

Genomics have been at the forefront over the past 10 years, Heller says.

“We realize now that to make use of genomics -- indeed to understand it -- we must look in other areas,” he says. “Knowing the structure, sequence, or variants of a gene tells you little about what it does, how it does it, and the consequences of its loss or modification of function. Neurobiology is now moving ahead rapidly because of new imaging technologies. However, the temporal and spatial sensitivity of those techniques are not adequate to tell us how the brain learns and remembers or feels moods. We still do not have a clue about what consciousness is. All of this is just to say that there are major advances to come and they will change the field.”

Ursinus alumus, Dr. Craig Heller 1965, is a physiologist and biologist at Stanford University. Heller’s work has focused on circadian rhythms and homeostasis. He invented "the glove," a vacuum cooling device used to cool core body temperature and increase muscle performance, which has been used by athletes at Stanford and by the University of Miami Hurricanes.