TED Conversations

Matthew Wieder

Student, Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art


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Can we "engineer" our own interests through repeated exposure?

This week in my Bioelectricity class we learned about muscle contraction and how individual muscle twitches build on each other until tetanus (complete contraction of the muscle) is reached. Muscles are made up of small individual contractile units called sarcomeres which when they contract by themselves change the length of the muscle and produce a force that is negligible. However, when the sarcomeres contract in unison, the tension force produced is great enough to allow us to perform all of our normal day to day activities.

We also had a discussion in class about science education and how to get more young people excited about science -- often times in class there was a certain interaction with a role model who provided key influence either in a positive or negative direction.

This led me to think about the idea of life changing experiences. Is it ever a single experience, a specific interaction with a teacher or other role model that leads us to the career choices we make or, are we more influenced by the small events and sets of circumstances that "sum up" and provide this life altering influence?


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  • Mar 29 2012: I have been strongly influenced in my desire to be a teacher by one I had in high school. Not so much by one particular incident as by the whole tenor of her approach to dealing with me. I was a difficult student with a troubled personal life. Her continued interest in my well being made a lasting impression on me and has lead to my going back to school at the age of 42 with the goal of becoming a high school teacher myself. This is not an easy field to enter.
    The series of interactions that we had all feedback on each other to have a cumulative effect on me. And I, in turn, may end up influencing someone else one day
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      Mar 29 2012: Hi Jean-Baptiste,
      One of the most influential teachers I ever had was one I had in high school as well, who took an interest in my future career and pushed me to apply to a summer program teaching recombinant-DNA techniques. Seeing what could be done in the lab as compared to peeked my interest and I have continued working in labs over summers ever since. I guess this could be considered a single experience that changed my thinking, however, I feel that my experience in the class taught by that teacher primed me for the experience I would have over the summer. I wonder if under different circumstances, the same summer experience would have had as great an impression.

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