Tiktaalik roseae: My experience at the Center for Care and Discovery

Fossil of Tiktaalik roseae.

Last weekend, I traveled down to Hyde Park to the University of Chicago.  My professor for my Introduction to Health Sciences class gave us the opportunity to earn extra credit by attending a symposium at the new University of Chicago hospital, the Center for Cure and Discovery.  I initially just signed up for the chance for extra credit and the possibility of seeing the new hospital.  I had only been down to Hyde Park once before so I thought it might be nice to explore a new area.  

When I walked into the building, I was greeted with great hospitality and I felt pretty special.  The event was a seminar for practicing physicians and medical professionals on current developments in areas of medicine such as neurology, genetics, cardiovascular health, and the most advanced surgical techniques.  I arrived a little late and didn’t get to go on a tour of the new hospital, but I found my way to a session titled “Your Inner Fish.”  The presentation took place in the chapel of the new hospital, a room of curved wood finished walls and natural lighting from outside.  By the time the presentation started, less that 10 other people were in the room.  In all of the chairs was a book titled “Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5 Billion Year History of the Human Body.”  

Dr. Neil Shubin.

Dr. Neil Shubin is a paleontologist at the University of Chicago, a provost at the Field Museum in Chicago, and a professor of Anatomy for the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine.  Reading this about him before the presentation, I was impressed and in disbelief that I would momentarily be in his presence.  The main focus of his discussion was on the most important discovery of his career: the discovery of the species tiktaalik roseae in the Arctic Circle.  His research group actually found the site that tiktaalik was located at when a lost graduate student made his way back to the camp site.  The
 graduate student came back to camp with fossilized rocks filling his pockets, and at 3am that morning (in the sunlight), the group went out to the site and continued to dig.  The discovery of tiktaalik roseae is important because it is one of the closest known relatives to tetrapods or four-legged, land-dwelling animals (like humans ourselves).


My freshman year, I took the general biology sequence (a requirement for pre-med students), and my second quarter general biology class focused on the topic of evolution and the transition of animal species from water to land, and eventually to the evolution of human beings.  As a paleontologist, Dr. Shubin said he has a unique way of teaching anatomy because he presents information about the anatomy of simpler species and how that relates to humans.  His presentation and my experience at the Center for Care and Discovery was a pivotal day in my experience as an aspiring medical student because I realized how important it is to take chances, get lost, and think outside of the box to discover what I really love and what I am meant do to.  

Images from http://tiktaalik.uchicago.edu/index.html

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