From the President's Desk

Cultivating Curiosity

What do you want to be when you grow up? It is an age-old question that each of us has pondered at least once during our lives. It is a fun question to ask children, and as they age, it becomes a more imperative one. Our challenge as parents, teachers, and professors is helping our children imagine their futures filled with potential and opportunity.  

So, what did you want to be when you were 10? Most often, I wanted to be an archaeologist, and sometimes I hoped I would become a biologist or a chemist. To me, science was adventurous—it was synonymous with learning, and I’ve always loved to learn. My parents were supportive (or tolerant) of my active imagination as I turned our home into my laboratory.  

Having saved plastic glitter containers from my art projects because they resembled test tubes, I would mix kitchen ingredients with water, pour the benign concoctions into the tubes, and freeze them. I would record how long it took them to freeze, although I’m sure I slowed down the freezing process by checking on them too often. Frequently opening and closing the freezer door tried my mother’s patience. Kids! Once they were solid, I would examine each tube with my magnifying glass and pretend to make the most important discoveries in the world.  

As a child, President Gayle E. Hutchinson wanted to grow up to be a scientist and has never lost her curiosity and passion for learning.

As a child, President Gayle E. Hutchinson wanted to grow up to be a scientist and has never lost her curiosity and passion for learning.

Nothing delights me more than to see that same curiosity and passion for learning in our faculty and students. Chico State is home to amazing, ground-breaking research. Students are delving into important and innovative studies—reading, writing, observing, analyzing, and interacting, while also developing critical thinking skills and striving to improve the world in which we live.  

When Californians think of cutting-edge research, I’m not sure they immediately think about the California State University system. But they should. CSU research grants and contracts awarded total $2 to $3 billion annually. And at Chico State, externally funded grants and contracts averaged $24.6 million between 2011 and 2016.  

In all corners of campus and across all disciplines, you will find students and faculty exploring issues, advancing knowledge, and discovering new possibilities. Current research includes:  

  • using the cells of zebrafish in an attempt to make new blood  
  • studying the effects of vibration on seed germination to boost agricultural productivity  
  • exploring salmon habitats to restore populations in the Sacramento River 
  • developing a neighborhood improvement plan to enhance the safety, livability,and vitality of our South Campus neighborhood  

Sometimes the research process can be as enlightening as the results. That much I can remember from my junior year in high school.  

We were breeding Drosophila, or fruit flies, in my advanced biology class for a study of genetics. Over spring break, I volunteered to euthanize and count the fruit flies my lab partner and I had bred. On the designated day, I took the collection outside (per my mother’s request) and euthanized them. For safe-keeping, I put the dead flies in an old Sucrets box and placed the little metal container safely in my bedroom. The next afternoon, I walked in to see a steady black stream of Drosophila pouring out from the back of the Sucrets box. I hadn’t noticed the gaps caused by the metal hinges of the lid (or administered enough ether, apparently)! I lost our experiment that day, and my family’s home gained a colony of fruit flies that took weeks to get rid of. Kids!  

As I’m sure our faculty and students can attest, failure and perseverance can be an important part of science and an invaluable element of innovation and creativity. They provide us with critical information and a lens through which we advance our studies and ourselves.  

Whether studying strains of avian influenza in birds on the Pacific Flyway to prevent threats to human health, or examining government policy’s impact on families living on minimum wage, Chico State students and faculty are making an impact on the world. I look forward to seeing where our research continues to lead us.  

Gayle E. Hutchinson, President  

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