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UCLA Magazine Fall 2002
The Little Marias
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Fall 2002
Science & Society
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America has been fortunate to have leaders who understood the value of ongoing support for research. The world in which our work brings success is a world of integration and overlapping consequences. Narrow knowledge can become incorrect knowledge. Just as a college education is an investment in an individual’s future, support for research is an investment in the nation’s future. It more than justifies the expense.

Advances in mathematics, physics, biology, chemistry — the core physical sciences — undergird all of the biomedical sciences on which we depend to understand disease, find cures, develop vaccines and initiate preventive strategies. Information technologies have touched and transformed almost every facet of our lives, our work and our economy. The brief, 30-year history of genetics has brought us from the exquisitely simple design of the double helix to the most precise identification of any human being. In criminal cases, the advent of DNA testing has frequently proven the fallibility of eyewitness accounts.

Another form of genetics mushroomed into a whole industrial sector. Biotechnology has revolutionized agriculture with pest-resistant plants. It has produced valuable staple crops like golden rice, which provides a nutritionally complete meal in one serving. The list of dramatic changes and choices that science has triggered is so diverse it verges on the wondrous. And this only describes the present. The future promises to be even more spectacular.

Nanotechnology is designing our next revolution. Coupled with increasing prowess in information technologies, nanotechnology will change everything from manufacturing to medicine. Think of building new materials atom by atom. We will be able to make a wish list of characteristics to incorporate. Nanostructures are at the confluence of the smallest of human-made devices and the large molecules of living systems. With them, we will be able to connect nanomachines to individual human cells to target delivery of medicine.

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