From the Editor: 87.2 Science and the Individual

Every now and then, we come across scientific discoveries that earn a collective double-take from humanity. The first man on the moon; the discovery of the Higgs Boson; the earliest, shadowy X-ray images of DNA’s double helix. Breakthroughs like these are the ones that answer sweeping questions about who we are and where we came from. They resonate with all of mankind by exploring the universal.

But by zooming in, we find that some of the most fascinating mysteries in science lie at the individual level—a single, rare case of liver cancer, for instance, or a phenotypic quirk that appears in one identical twin and not the other. By straying from the average, these outliers can provide telling clues about the sample as a whole. With this in mind, the Yale Scientific will devote its first issue of 2014 to exploring “Science and the Individual.” From advances in personalized medicine (pg. 8) to debates on the biological basis of identity (pg. 37), we have much to learn from probing the myriad factors that make each of us unique.

This issue will also examine the intimate relationship between science and the individual. It’s easy to assume that science is locked away in ivory towers, when in fact it pervades nearly every aspect of daily life; the wide array of topics in this issue suggests that science calls out to each of us in strikingly different ways. To the 65-year-old with advanced Alzheimer’s, the most important scientific contribution may be pending research on neuron regeneration (pg. 20). To a woman in rural South Africa, it could be a shelter that protects her family from lightning strikes (pg. 28). And to that Yalie from southern California, it may simply be a deeper understanding of how cold affects the human body (pg. 26).

Thanks to the growing citizen science movement, even those without formal training can now contribute to groundbreaking scientific research by gathering and analyzing data on their own. The investigative article on page 22 highlights the trajectory of Yale’s own citizen science program, a joint effort between the Yale Office of Sustainability and Peabody Museum of Natural History. Through training students and staff to track biodiversity on campus, the growing initiative draws science and the average person even closer together.

And so, in this issue we invite you to join us in celebrating the individual. With more frequent online articles, brand new outreach initiatives, and a redesigned layout, the Yale Scientific aims to convey the resounding impact of scientific discovery — on the world, on the research community, and perhaps most importantly, on the individual. In these pages, I hope that you will discover an aspect of science that resonates with you.