foran icon displaying the letters f and o of the formo logomorean icon displaying the letters f and o of the formo logoforan icon displaying the letters f and o of the formo logomorean icon displaying the letters f and o of the formo logoforan icon displaying the letters f and o of the formo logomorean icon displaying the letters f and o of the formo logoforan icon displaying the letters f and o of the formo logomorean icon displaying the letters f and o of the formo logoforan icon displaying the letters f and o of the formo logomorean icon displaying the letters f and o of the formo logoforan icon displaying the letters f and o of the formo logomorean icon displaying the letters f and o of the formo logoforan icon displaying the letters f and o of the formo logomorean icon displaying the letters f and o of the formo logoforan icon displaying the letters f and o of the formo logomorean icon displaying the letters f and o of the formo logo

even more bull
from a company
not just getting on

with it est. 2022

The evolution of wonder: how a biologist grew to be

John Walden doesn’t know how he became him but he knows how he became a biologist. Maybe the transformations involved similar metabolites, he reflects.

wonder

In childhood, I spent time trying to find a place for myself. Trying to find a concept of ‘me’, amidst the intimidating vastness of the world. I found it helpful to see other approaches to this whole ‘being-alive-thing’. Instructive to see all the different paths taken. Marveling at the silver glint of a trout in an Adirondack Lake or the ruffling feathers of a sparrow by an urban playground, I found myself drawn to the myriad manifestations of life around me, some large, some small, some familiar, others so strange.

They all had stories to share, ones I wished to witness in an instinctual hope that by watching them, I would come to better understand myself

The trees by the sidewalk, the ants in the garden, they all had stories to share, ones I wished to witness in an instinctual hope that by watching them, I would come to better understand myself. I was filled with wonder.

curiosity

As I grew older, that inchoate wonder evolved into a more tangible curiosity for life and living things, a desire to know how they worked, a feeling that if I paid enough attention I might get a peek behind the grand curtain of creation, maybe even get a chance to see its inner workings, gain an inkling of what made it all tick. Standing in my middle school science lab by the periodic table I couldn’t help but marvel at how I and my fellow living things could be made of the same atoms as the rest of the cosmos, but somehow also stand apart. 

Wasn’t the hydrogen in the water flowing through my pounding heart as I sprinted down the football pitch the same as that being pounded into helium in the heart of the sun? What was so special about life, about me?

What was so special about life, about me?

I was curious to find out, and so I delved deeper, no longer just stopping to marvel at a leafy forest tree, a spiny desert cactus, or a tenacious weed persevering through the crack in a city sidewalk, but taking the time to investigate, to systematically explore just exactly what was drawing me to these fascinating organisms quietly getting on with existing amidst the buzzing of ‘the real world’. 

I was curious about it all, the cells that make up our bodies, the recycling of water and carbon, the elegant symbiosis of plant and Mycorrhizal fungi, the scorched earth battles between my immune system and invading pathogens, I wanted to know, and the more I learned, the more I wanted to know, the more I felt my place in the world coming into focus.

understanding

Reflecting on this, and unsure, like many, of the rickety steps towards adulthood, biology offered me an obvious creek to surge into. Old friends saw the connection, urging me to commit to the study of life, to strive and hone that innate wonder of my youth into a profession. It felt like the natural progression, the logical choice, and a fitting platform for beginning to think about why and what could, not just what was. After four years of diligent undergrad study I could do more now than simply understand others’ takes on life, I could reflect. With five years of graduate study on top, I learnt to channel, nurture, restrict, coordinate and try to use my knowledge to affect change in the world.

I learnt to channel, nurture, restrict, coordinate and try to use my knowledge to affect change in the world

My plants and I had grown to become more than academic symbiotes, we were accomplices, supporting each other through the highs and lows of grad school for me and the cycles of their lives for them. I must have presided over thirty or so plant generations by the end of it all. No matter how tired or dejected I was I always felt a spark of joy when I saw my plants, an urge to understand how they worked, sometimes even a faint echo of that youthful wonder I’d felt so long ago.

mutualism

Perhaps that’s the real reason I’ve been inspired to stick to this path over the years, to make Biology my career, my livelihood, my calling. It’s that old feeling of connection through understanding, of glimpsing the underlying sameness we share with all of life. That old intuition that watching others take on this whole being alive thing might help me better define myself, one human that has grown from a child full of wonder, to a youth full of curiosity, to an adult in search of understanding.

I rest atop a hill now, with an urge to not just use the knowledge I’ve gained to explore, but to also help protect this beautiful tapestry of life that we are all a part of.

I rest atop a hill now, with an urge to not just use the knowledge I’ve gained to explore, but to also help protect this beautiful tapestry of life that we are all a part of.

To help us harmonize our place within it. An act of service to this world that has so inspired me, and a hope that we can preserve it for the generations to come. So as to ensure that there will always be something for young minds to wonder at, something to help them come to know themselves.

John Walden

A senior scientist in Formo’s strain engineering team, with over six years of experience in the biotech and plant-breeding industry. He’s passionate about biology and its potential to revolutionize the food system. Ask him about plants, video games and why everyone in Europe thinks he’s a cowboy.

Latest posts

Stay in the loop.

* indicates required