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CREDIT: Robert Neubecker

For the love of ferns

I attended Hampshire College to major in music. While watering plants in the greenhouse to fulfill my community service requirement, I fell in love with a fern.

Intending to make thousands of them, I discovered the college laboratory, where I tweezed the furry rhizomes of Davallia fejeensis into agar-filled test tubes, careful to keep my sleeve out of the Bunsen burner flame used to keep things sterile. Between frat parties and piano practice, I made a discovery: Agar prepared for growing bacteria caused the rhizomes to reprogram and become reproductive-like structures. My discovery set me on a path to research. I would stay on that path for about a dozen years. (Keep reading at Science.)

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