I confess.

Sometimes I let myself dream big as a scientist. 

I am a no-nonsense kind of scientist, but every once in a while I let myself wonder about what could be achieved on a big scale.

Some days, I go home and one of my kids asks me "So, dad, did you cure cancer today?"

We laugh, but we both know that behind that over the top question rests a reality: I really want to cure cancer. No joke. They know it too.

Of course it is not that simple. For one thing, there is no such thing as "cancer" in the singular in the sense that we mean it. Cancer is really an umbrella term of dozens if not hundreds of different diseases.

But, the truth is that having a big-time, perhaps way "out there" goal or even dream is important for both scientists and Science. 

For you see, Science and even individual scientists can achieve big things and sometimes that starts with what seems at the time as the impossible. When science has had its biggest impact it has been through achieving what pretty much everyone said was impossible: putting a man on the moon, eradicating a terrible widespread disease like smallpox, antibiotics saving millions of lives from bacterial infections, making HIV/AIDS often a chronic manageable disease for many when it used to be uniformly fatal, bone marrow transplantation. These are just some examples of realities that at one time seemed "too big" to realistically consider. But some people did go after these goals and made them realities.

When I dream now as a scientist about research related to what I do, I am dreaming about curing certain types of childhood cancers and maybe even some types of prostate cancer after my own personal battle with it. And I dream about making stem cells a safe and effective drug for certain diseases. Helping my friends make their wheel chairs a thing of the past to collect dust. I dream about being able to tell the new friends who call or email me with questions about how stem cells might help their sick kid well again that there is a real, immediately available option.


Maybe, but not maybe not.

I am not saying that these things will be real tomorrow, peddling unrealistic hype that is sure to disappoint. It is likely to take years or even decades for big things to happen, but you have to start somewhere and most often that is with an idea, a big one. 

I know that there is no shortcut from today to a future reality when such big dreams might become realities, but after spending about half of  my life as a scientist I am realistic about that. I know that science takes time, but every so often you have to spend a minute thinking, maybe even dreaming about what new reality that research might make happen.

Science can be frustratingly incremental, but as much as that is necessary you have to sometimes think big too.

I know other scientists dream big too such as eliminating malaria, curing Alzheimer's, curing Type I Diabetes, finding a powerful treatment for heart attacks, and so on.

I say "keep dreaming" and I mean it literally rather than facetiously. 

Keep aiming for the big stuff, because some of the time we will get there despite the odds, despite politics, despite budgets, and despite the hostility towards science by some, particularly by many leaders in America.