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A fresh perspective can change everything

an illustration of a female holding binoculars and looking through a keyhole that is taller than her
Image credit: uzenzen/Getty Images
Oct 5 2018
Fellow, Research, Stanford

For graduate student Amy Braun, an experiment that revealed sex differences in a model of autism wasn’t initially a surprise – differences between male and female mice had been found in many other studies, and had been largely ignored.

A few years later, however, Braun challenged the assumptions that led her colleagues to disregard such findings, and that’s when things got interesting. She found there was something to learn about autism from studying what others had taken for granted. And, she said, the experience changed the kinds of questions she’s interested in asking. “It’s completely changed the way I look at everybody’s work, including my own,” she said.

While not every reexamined assumption will have such life-changing results or even lead to new insights, Braun is not alone in discovering something useful from questioning her field’s assumptions.

Amy Braun is a 2012 Regina Casper Stanford Graduate Fellow.

Through VPGE, graduate students find funding for interdisciplinary projects, connect with students from other departments, and enroll in programs that cross disciplinary lines.