March 11th, 2021

By Jacob Kronenberg


When I was little, I wanted to be an inventor. At the age of five, my grandmother told me that I descended from Thomas Edison. I did some investigating and it turns out that my grandmother’s grandfather was friends with Thomas Edison’s father, Samuel Edison. It’s a tenuous connection, but when you’re five, that’s more than enough. When I wasn’t building structures from Tinkertoys, Lincoln Logs, or Legos, I was sprawled out on my floor drawing solutions to the problems in my life with crayons. I remember dreaming up an automatic sorter to organize my messy room and a device to let me insert straws into Capri-Sun juice pouches without poking through the back side. You see, childhood’s most pressing problems. I was drawn to stories where the brilliant and solitary engineer devises thousand patents. If anyone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I knew what to tell them.


In school, I focused on science extracurriculars. I joined the Science Olympiad team in middle school because I loved the competition and the excitement of a new problem. Plus, it was the hot thing to do in middle school. Believe me. Science is cool. All of those competitions prepared me for the height of my middle school science career, the epic eighth grade sludge test. Our science teacher mixed up a sludge and we had to use our knowledge of chemistry to separate and identify components from the glumpy sludge. While many other kids were frustrated by this impossible task, I reveled in the scientific problem solving challenge.


Outside of school, I was trying to invent too. I’d go over to my best friend’s house and build things in his basement. We built a balsa wood bridge that was strong enough for me to stand on, a trebuchet that launched projectiles across the yard, and rubber-band powered propeller planes. This was all for fun and on our own time. We weren’t trying to solve any real problems, and there was no competition. We simply wanted to figure out as much as possible, and we worked together to do it.


When I started doing research in college, I realized that the spirit of science is much closer to working in my friend’s basement than to my fantasy of the inventor. Real advances in science don’t come from a single person working to solve all of the world’s problems. They come from teams of people, bringing thoughts from a variety of backgrounds, working together to learn as much as possible. I also learned that even famous inventors like Thomas Edison were hardly solitary geniuses. Edison had a team in his lab working collectively to make ideas reality. I’ve given up my dream of being an inventor in favor of a new one: being a scientist.


–Jacob Kronenberg



Edited by Eliza Neidhart