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Passion

Mount Nittany, June 25, 2012; photo by Steve Williams

PHOTO: STEVE WILLIAMS

On assignments, I often have the good fortune to see scientists, educators, students, alumni—all the people that make up the college—at work, in a way most people don’t. As if a curtain has been drawn back, the motions and actions of people intensely focused on finding answers to questions. Behind-the-scenes work to secure our water, supply our food, develop new sources of energy, and keep us safe and fed.

One essential element, not often credited, that fuels a range of scientific and education successes the college has had over the years is passion.

During a recent trip to the Fruit Research and Extension Center in Biglerville to photograph entomologist Greg Krawczyk it was demonstrated again.

I photographed him as he explained his work to understand the biology and life cycle of the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB)—what influences its decisions to feed on one crop versus another, why they do what they do, go where they go. 

Understanding just one part of that life cycle, he said, could lead to a way to influence, interrupt, or control the devastating damages stink bugs have on agriculture. Fruit and vegetable growers in Pennsylvania are clamoring for ways to control an insect pest that has caused huge financial losses—even driven them out of business.

When asked how long “all this” would take, Krawczyk reminded me of the daunting challenges. Understanding takes time. Researchers have been studying the codling moth for a hundred years. Until a few years ago no one was even looking at stink bugs. Scientists are starting from scratch.

As he spoke it became obvious that understanding this insect was more than a job for Krawczyk. I was seeing passion personified.

On my way out of town that morning, I’d used my iPhone to photograph Mt. Nittany in the rain. I e-mailed the image back to the office where someone would post it on the college’s Facebook page.

The next day, I opened Facebook. Something had happened. I looked at the traffic analytics for the photo, with its bar graphs and statistics. I was seeing—for us—a first-time phenomenon. The photo of the iconic Mt. Nittany had gone viral. Lots of people connected with it.

I sat there, looking over the statistics available on Facebook’s analytics tools that describe the actions related to this one photo. All at once, I had a sense of déjà vu. I was seeing it again—a palpable reflection of passion. The connections our readers share for this valley where they went to school, learned their vocation, and often return to, again and again, as industry spokespeople, mentors, scientists, and friends.

A connection built on what I believe is a shared commitment and understanding of the critical role of the agricultural sciences. A commitment to building a better world, to reliably supply food and support agricultural in all its forms. People fueled by passion.

A valuable trait for all of us as we look ahead, not just at the challenges we face, but the opportunities too.

Steve Williams
Managing Editor
sfw3@psu.edu
@ScooterNSticks on Twitter