The Birth of a Galaxy

A letter from an alumnus sparks an intellectual Odyssey through space and time.

By Chris Lydgate ’90 | March 1, 2016

It was a short email peeking out from my groaning inbox, with the innocuous subject “Alum news.” A classmate by the name of Harry Selker ’74 mentioned that he’s still working at Tufts, where he is dean of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

There was something about the phrase “translational science” that I couldn’t resist. I looked it up in Wikipedia (the dilettante’s crutch), where I learned that it has to do with taking insights from the orderly realm of medical research and applying them to the life-and-death, blood-and-guts reality of patients in hospital corridors. 

Digging deeper, I discovered that Harry is a researcher of international stature. A couple years ago, he made headlines with a groundbreaking study showing that paramedics can dramatically improve the outcomes of heart attacks by administering a mixture of glucose, insulin, and potassium. He also pioneered the “time-insensitive predictive instrument,” which is essentially an algorithm to help doctors in the field figure out if a patient is having a heart attack, a stroke, and so on. Devices like these are now standard-issue on heart monitors, and have helped millions of people around the world get the care they need.

Harry didn’t bring any of that up, of course. He was mostly writing to say hello and let us know about himself and his family. 

His note reminds me of what I love about Reed. On any given day, I might find myself grappling with the hormone that makes you hungry, the history of trousers, or the concept of time (wait til next issue). The math professor who’s come up with a new idea for quilting, the anthropologist who wrote a book about breakaway nations and the biology student who studies the social behavior of orcas..

The best part about this galaxy of thinkers, writers, artists, and innovators? It’s still being born, right here on campus, every single day, thanks to Reed’s amazing students, brilliant professors, and inimitable alumni. 

Especially the ones who take the time, now and again, to drop us a line.