Week 10 – Overthinking Scientist

Hope all is going well. It has been a crazy couple of weeks. For those folks that think COVID-19 is over and that they are done with it, they really need to think again because COVID-19 is not done with us. We were fortunate to have nobody get COVD-19 during the peak of the pandemic here at BioSurfaces but over the past 3-4 months, several of our team members, all of which have been vaccinated and boosted, have been infected by the virus. So far, the most serious illness was similar to flu-like symptoms so thank God (and the scientists) that we have this tool in the toolbox. We’ve opened everything up again so this is the risk we are willing to accept.


The issue is the unvaccinated folks who are accepting a risk that may end up killing them. All of the statistics point to a higher death rate for these folks (no, I am not saying that someone who is fully vaccinated and boosted could not die but the chances are really low) and I’m not sure how to reach out to someone to let them know they are playing Russian Roulette. This virus is going to be with us for a while to come and likely yearly vaccinations, like we do for the flu, will become part of the new norm. Masks may also make temporary comebacks now and again. Tina and I just traveled to Arizona for vacation (not too often I am out of the office for a week). In Boston, there was about 50% of people wearing masks on the plane. In Phoenix, it was about 5-10% of people wearing them on the plane. I must say that from all the confrontation on planes you’ve heard about in the news, both flights were uneventful. Tina and I felt more comfortable wearing a mask, even in the face of a lot of non-mask wearers. Large group activities have spurred on passing the virus around. With more people vaccinated, it has helped to keep the numbers down in the hospitals, which is critical. We also have more tools to fight it which we didn’t have at the beginning. Still, it would be easier to eradicate this virus if all of us were vaccinated. Sadly, this was made too political and has really polarized the camps. It should be about keeping people alive. We as a country have now lost over 1 million people. A good percentage of those deaths could have been avoided. So frustrating since a simple shot could have avoided some of these needless deaths.


Tina asked me what the topic of this week’s blog was (I never tell her until I’m finished so she can review it for me). She suggested to talk about how scientists view things in the world. I was wondering what she meant and she went on to explain that scientists tend to look at the world in a different way and could I discuss this. I guess after writing the opening intro paragraphs, I guess she’s right. Scientists tend to look at things from all perspectives, not just one viewpoint and are always looking at the data or other factors to make conclusions. These are important attributes to have. It is also a curse in a lot of ways because you tend to think of things outside the box that a normal person wouldn’t think about. For example, when the pandemic first hit, I wondered if older people like myself who ended up getting a vaccination such as against the shingle’s virus, would that offer some degree of protection for you because your immune system has been stimulated. Why would I think about this? Beats me but as a scientist you are always looking at things from all sides. I even started doing an informal survey of people I knew who got COVID-19 and asked about other vaccines they recently got. I then started hearing about some initial evidence and more and more evidence has come out (https://www.news-medical.net/news/20211005/Study-suggests-shingles-vaccine-reduces-the-risk-for-COVID-19.aspx). Still needs more studies but you can see how a simple question can blossom. Has nothing to do with BioSurfaces, but this is the way I (and likely many scientists) normally view life.


In terms of how we think about BioSurfaces, it is seen through the same lens. When we are working through a concept for a new device or product, we have to think about every aspect of it, from what can go right to what can go wrong (most folks only have to worry about it going right, for which I am jealous). Planning has to cover all potential aspects of the project. I think this is a real strength of our team. I have had more partners tell us that we really understand what they are trying to accomplish. We do not follow a one size fits all approach. Each project is its own entity and we think about them individually. This can sometimes get complex when you have 10 projects going on at once in the company. To take this into account, each person of our team has a couple of their own programs they are responsible for. While we all have a good idea of each project, that person really focuses on those questions. My job is to understand all of them since I get asked questions about them all. There are some days when I leave here that my head is spinning between answering questions, addressing problems and conducting the business operations. I really enjoy thinking outside the box because it can lead to developing some really cool stuff. I try to lead by example for our team so they are not afraid to trying something, even if it fails. Learning from failure is still learning and that knowledge will never leave you. I am proud of the different technologies we continue to develop, with more to come. All it takes is some overthinking scientists.


Please make sure to check out #FactualFriday on May 20th and we’ll see you back here on May 27th.

Matt