Joy of Discovery

Robert V. Duncan

Dr. Robert Duncan,
Vice Chancellor for Research

Few events in the professional lives of scientists and scholars can match the “moment of discovery;” that flash of insight, that elegant new proof, that point of clarity that leads to a fresh way of seeing, thinking or understanding. Such moments can be life-changing, especially when students are involved: Having experienced the joy and excitement of a true breakthrough, young researchers often spend the rest of their careers seeking such moments again and again.

Popular perceptions notwithstanding, discoveries seldom stem from some fortunate accident in the laboratory; they take years of patient, painstaking preparation. “Chance,” as Louis Pasteur aptly put it, “favors only the prepared mind.”

Such was the case with Devoney Looser, an MU associate professor of English who specializes in the work of women writers of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Professor Looser’s moment of discovery, detailed in Illumination’s cover story, involved recognizing the historical and literary worth of two sisters whose contributions to the development of the early English-language novel were first celebrated, and then forgotten, by the prevailing literary establishment.

In our Spring/Summer edition of Illumination, you’ll also encounter others whose patience, persistence and pertinacity has led to an enlargement of our understanding. You’ll meet Jae Kwon, an engineer whose insights are advancing some of the world’s most intriguing technologies. You’ll learn about the work of Scott Standifer, a clinician who recognizes that adults with autism, not just children, can benefit from intervention. You’ll discover how an innovative plant geneticist, Mike McMullen, has perfected a new way of assessing how genes influence corn development, and how philosopher Paul Weirich has transformed the way we think about thinking.

I can’t promise that our reporting on these and other faculty achievements will make you stand up and shout, “Ah ha!” But I hope that this edition of Illumination will steer you toward your own moment of discovery—a point of clarity that captures the sense of promise and possibility that those of us working at the University of Missouri are fortunate enough to encounter every day.

Robert V. Duncan

Vice Chancellor for Research

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University of Missouri

Published by the Office of Research

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