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My Dad's favourite question

Today marks 17 years since my late father, David Baum, died doing something he believed in. The world would look unfathomably different in many ways to him, the domination of the internet, social media, smart phones, systems biology (whatever that is!) and the concept of personalised medicine (where medicine is tailored to your genetics – not the personal engagement of the Physician in your problem, something he certainly championed and which is so lacking today).

At the time of his death I was just starting out in my PhD, not even really understanding how research works or what science is. I wonder daily (but especially today) what he would make of the way we now do research. Kit science. High tech machines. He too was curious about the interplay of technology and his own scientific passion (paediatric medicine – see picture, imaging neonatal retinas). But one thing I am sure he would still be adamant about is the power of a good question over the power of a good machine. And just as important as the question, he’d ask what are the definitions of your terms (i.e. your foundational understanding of the subject – without which a hypothesis can’t be generated). As a young kid at the table, he rewarded my brothers and I if we had a good question, not necessarily a good answer. And he challenged us to make sure our questions made sense – change the definition and the question is very different! We are certainly trying to do this in my own lab – but its always good to take stock, redefine the terms and make sure the questions are razor sharp. Combined with a healthy dose of curiosity I think that makes for good, fun, science – which my dad would certainly have recognised and liked!

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