Two Cents' Worth: Mayo's Everest team highlights the adventure in science

For those that have not been following "Advancing The Science," the Mayo Clinic Science blog that details the events of six local researchers on Mount Everest, you might have missed Joel Streed’s answer to the question, "Why conduct research at the top of the world?"

Streed admits to not being a researcher himself, but as serving more as a communications person for the research team. Streed rationalizes the need to understand and protect the natural environment against the cost of the trip. Not being an expert on either the research being conducted or the finances behind the trip, I choose to simply accept his explanation for the validity of the expedition.

If I may, however, I would like go beyond Streed’s carefully worded and well-thought-out answer. In 1924, when asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, famed British climber George Mallory replied, "Because it is there!" There is passion both in Mallory’s quoted response and in the spirit of scientific research.

My 8th grade science students have been following not only Mayo’s Everest blog but also those of National Geographic and The North Face teams. Blogs are great. They are like real-time books that change as each reader follows different links based upon their interests. Due to advances in technology, the students in room 126 at John Adams Middle School can hear and see Dr. Amine Issa exclaim, "This is the real deal here," as he talks from base camp at the foot of the world’s highest mountain.

We are like flies sitting in the corner of Louis Pasteur’s lab. We don’t know the significance of the experiments yet, but the data and its analysis could be historic and life-changing. As the high-altitude research story unfolded, the kids found their own unique ways to relate to what is happening. One girl realized that she was wearing a North Face vest. Suddenly, she was "part" of what was happening on the other side of the world.


Kids started asking questions. One boy rushed to the computer to compare average temperatures on Everest with those in Rochester. After checking with a number of different sources and being satisfied with his answer, he asked if he could share it with the Mayo team.

This science was "cool" (pun intended). I realized that through this endeavor, Mayo was creating super science heroes for these kids. That may not have been the intent, but Dr. Issa’s long hair and the rugged mountain backgrounds may have helped eliminate the "geeky" image some adolescents have of scientists.

So, going back to the question: "Why conduct research at the top of the world?" Perhaps an additional answer may be to create a sense of science adventure in our own backyard.

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