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Richard Joaquin Ortiz, B.S., Ph.D.

As long as I can remember understanding what made things tick has been the driving force of my life.  As a child and beyond, my favorite word was “how” and I would ask anyone I thought could give me an answer− often to their exasperation, but my craving to understand how things worked kept me asking. In high school and the early part of college, textbooks and sometime the teachers seemed to give an adequate understanding of how most things in biology, chemistry and physics worked. Clear and concise summaries at the end of each chapter contained the factual “hows” and “whys”, but all of that changed when I took a systems neuroscience course. Words like “unknown” or “mysterious” were peppered throughout the chapter summaries and left me perplexed and frustrated. It seemed like there had to be pages missing from the books, we had to know more about something as essential as the brain. I had never felt so perturbed in class. I now realize how naïve this was. I had initially chosen science because it was supposed to give me answers even if I had to dig for them, but for the first time in my life, I felt that it fell short. I could have, (perhaps, should have) ignored the feeling and went through the motions of memorization required to receive an A−... I didn’t. A switch had flipped and the idea of learning how the brain worked fascinated me and inspired me to push on, and not be complacent with what is unknown.

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