The blog of Bill Gates
gatesnotes
The blog of Bill Gates

Why I’d Love to Be a College Student Again

Sign In
 
My Profile & Settings
Log out
GO
Your search for "", with selected filters, does not match any posts. Please try again with a different search term or reset filters.

Popular searches include: Books, Malaria, and Future of Food.
RELATED ARTICLES ON
Logout:


Become a Gates Notes Insider
- or - Sign up with email
This email is already registered. Enter a new email, try signing in or retrieve your password
Send me updates from Bill Gates
Sign Up
Join the Gates Notes community to access exclusive content, comment on stories, subscribe to your favorite topics and more. We will never share or spam your email address. For more information see our Sign Up FAQ. By clicking "Sign Up" you agree to the Gates Notes Terms of Use / Privacy Policy.
Account Settings
VIEW & EDIT PROFILE
Your Information
First name
Last name
Save
Cancel
Email address
This email is already registered
Save
Cancel
Please verify email address. Click verification link sent to this email address or resend verification email.
Password
Save
Cancel
Send me updates from Bill Gates
You must provide an email
Your Interests
Saving Lives
Energy Innovation
Improving Education
Philanthropy
Book Reviews
About Bill Gates
Deactivate Account
Click the link below to begin the account deactivation process. Deactivate account If you want to permanently delete your account and remove its content, please send us a request here.
Ok
Gates Notes Insider Sign Up FAQ

Q. How do I create a Gates Notes account?

A. There are three ways you can create a Gates Notes account:

  • Sign up with Facebook. We’ll never post to your Facebook account without your permission.
  • Sign up with Twitter. We’ll never post to your Twitter account without your permission.
  • Sign up with your email. Enter your email address during sign up. We’ll email you a link for verification.

Q. Will you ever post to my Facebook or Twitter accounts without my permission?

A. No, never.

Q. How do I sign up to receive email communications from my Gates Notes account?

A. In Account Settings, click the toggle switch next to “Send me updates from Bill Gates.”

Q. How will you use the Interests I select in Account Settings?

A. We will use them to choose the Suggested Reads that appear on your profile page.

Forgot your password?
This email is already registered. Enter a new email, try signing in or retrieve your password
Reset Password
Change your header photo
your image
 
Change
your image
Uh Oh!

The image you are trying to upload is either too big or is an unacceptable format. Please upload a .jpg or .png image that is under 25MB.

Ok
First name
Last name
Enter a first and last name. For example, "Richard Feynman"
Bio
0/160 characters
Edit Profile
Account Settings
Save
Cancel
Suggested Reads
Reset your password.
Set New Password
Your password has been reset. You will now be redirected to the sign in page, or you can click here
Ok
Get emails from Bill Gates
Send me updates from Bill
You must provide an email
This email is already registered
Continue
We will never share or spam your email address. For more information see our Sign Up FAQ. By clicking "Continue" you agree to the Gates Notes Terms of Use / Privacy Policy.
 
your image
Uh Oh!
The image you are trying to upload is either too big or is an unacceptable format. Please upload a .jpg or .png image that is under 25MB.
Ok
Welcome FirstName!
You are now a Gates Notes Insider
Update Your Profile Information
First name
Last name
Save
Cancel
Email address
This email is already registered
Save
Cancel
Please verify email address. Click verification link sent to this email address or resend verification email.
Send me updates from Bill Gates
You must provide an email
Select Your Interests
Saving Lives
Energy Innovation
Improving Education
Philanthropy
Book Reviews
About Bill Gates
Continue
Confirm
Are you sure you want to
deactivate your account?
Deactivating your account will unsubscribe you from Gates Notes emails, and will remove your profile and account information from public view on the Gates Notes. Please allow for 24 hours for the deactivation to fully process. You can sign back in at any time to reactivate your account and restore its content.
Deactivate My Acccount
Go Back
Your Gates Notes account has been deactivated.
Come back anytime.
Welcome back
In order to unsubscribe you will need to sign-in to your Gates Notes Insider account
Once signed in just go to your Account Settings page and set your subscription options as desired.
Sign In
Request account deletion
We’re sorry to see you go. Your request may take a few days to process; we want to double check things before hitting the big red button. Requesting an account deletion will permanently remove all of your profile content. If you’ve changed your mind about deleting your account, you can always hit cancel and deactivate instead.
Submit
Cancel
Thank You! Your request has been sent
Become a Gates Notes Insider for access to exclusive content and personalized reading suggestions
Sign up to receive occasional updates from the Gates Notes
Sign Up
Privacy Policy
Please complete your account verification. Resend verification email.
This verification token has expired.
Your email address has been verified. Update my profile.
Your account has been deactivated. Sign up to re-activate your account.
View all newsletters in the newsletter archive
You are now unsubscribed from receiving emails.
Sorry, we were unable to unsubscribe you at this time.
The blog of Bill Gates
Why I’d Love to Be a College Student Again
 
Hello, . . My Profile & Settings
Log out
FOLLOW ME
It looks like you're using an older version of Internet Explorer which may not display all the features on this site. Upgrade Now » close
Innovation 101

Why I’d Love to Be a College Student Again

We all want to be young again, but I’ve rarely been as envious of young people as I was during my recent visit to Caltech.

Touring the campus, I was struck by what an amazing time it is to be a student at an institution like Caltech. In every field—from engineering and biology to chemistry and computer science—I learned about phenomenal research underway to improve our health, find new energy sources, and make the world a better place.

What’s exciting about this research is that if you’re a U.S. citizen you can thank yourself for many of the incredible projects on campus. That’s because much of the work is made possible by U.S. government investments. It’s your tax dollars at work and they can reap huge returns.

People often think that the U.S. spends a huge amount of money—perhaps too much—on R&D. In fact, all U.S. R&D spending accounts for less than 1 percent of national income.

I’ve written before about the importance of government investment to jumpstart innovation. Government-backed research in universities and labs leads to new ideas and technology that build new businesses, create jobs, and strengthen our overall economy.

But those big, life-changing discoveries and innovations—from the cancer cures to moonshots to solar cells– often get their start as an experiment in a university lab, an equation sketched on a professor’s blackboard, or a student asking, “What if?”

A new idea is a fragile thing. It needs allies to nurture it. Government R&D investments provide that important support. Without it, we would have fewer scientific breakthroughs.

Let me give a couple examples of why this is so important.

Some of the most exciting research I learned about during my visit was from Caltech scientists working on identifying possible treatments for neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. All of the researchers received government R&D funding.

Today, about 5.2 million Americans aged 65 have Alzheimer’s, but the number is expected to grow dramatically in the decades ahead. According to some estimates, by 2050, there will be a million new cases every year and the economic burden to the nation to care for those with Alzheimer’s will likely quadruple to $735 billion.

These are projections based on what we know about the disease today. Currently, there is no cure or effective treatment available.

But two of the researchers I met at Caltech are experimenting with innovative approaches to fight Alzheimer’s.

Bruce Hay, a professor of biology, shared his research on how he hopes to turn back the aging clock, delaying the impact of Alzheimer’s. 

Bruce’s research focuses on the role of mitochondria and mitochondrial DNA in the aging process. Mitochondria are the cell’s powerhouses, converting the chemical energy from the food we eat into a form our cells can use called adenosine triphosphate or ATP.

As we get older the mitochondrial DNA mutate, leading to cell dysfunction, and eventually cell death. Bruce’s goal is to prevent the process by cleaning out the mutated mitochondrial DNA, allowing us to feel younger.

Our bodies have a natural quality control process for removing mutated mitochondrial DNA, but it’s very inefficient. Bruce is researching ways to stimulate the removal of mutated mitochondrial DNA. He envisions a day when people would go to a spa for a mitochondrial cleanse to rid their bodies of the mutated mitochondria, helping to keep them feeling younger. I think all of us would want to sign up for a treatment like this.

I also met with Viviana Gradinaru, an assistant professor of biology and biological engineering. Viviana is working on developing new tools and methods for understanding how the brain works and how that knowledge could be used to treat people suffering from neurodegenerative diseases.

Much brain research, she told me, focuses on cellular and molecular pathways of neurodegenerative diseases. This is important research but it ignores the role of electrical signals in brain function.

Viviana has dedicated her career to exploring this area. She’s currently investigating deep brain stimulation, which is the use of electrical stimulation to treat the most debilitating symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. While it’s effective, there is not a lot of understanding about exactly how it works or how it might be applied to treat other diseases such as Alzheimer’s. She’s also exploring the use of light to stimulate the brain, a field called optogenetics.

Maybe the most amazing research is her work to create see-through tissue to visualize neural circuits. This innovative technique will help with our understanding of the brain and how various diseases might impact it.

Finally, I had a great conversation with Dianne Newman, a microbiologist who is working on a better understanding of cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder that impacts the lungs. Dianne has a unique background in environmental engineering, Earth science, and geobiology. She’s using her diverse interests to carve out a unique area of research into the Earth’s ancient bacteria and how it might help our knowledge of bacterial communities living in low-oxygen environments. These studies are helping us understand multidrug resistant pathogens that infect cystic fibrosis patients. Our foundation is interested in exploring whether any of her research might also apply to our understanding of tuberculosis.

I ended my visit to Caltech with a Q&A session with students. You can watch the video here. One student, a computer science and chemistry major, asked me which areas in science and technology are going to impact society and the world.

It was a great question but I found it hard to give him an answer. From what I saw at Caltech, there is incredible new research underway in every field. Any one of these disciplines would be enough to keep me excited for a lifetime. As I told the students, “The amount of innovation and the pace of innovation—contrary to what some observers say—I believe is faster today than ever.”

With continued government support, the number of amazing new discoveries at our universities will grow, as will their benefits.

Become a Gates Notes Insider for access to exclusive content and personalized reading suggestions

Read previous versions of the Annual Letter

Filed Under

Discussion
comments powered by Disqus