Professor uses biology studies to reflect on individual worth

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Julianne Grose, an associate professor of microbiology, speaks to BYU faculty and students during a devotional in the de Jong Concert Hall on May 21. (Addie Blacker)

A BYU associate professor of microbiology reflected on her studies as she spoke to students and faculty at a devotional on Tuesday, May 21.

Julianne Grose first shared questions she has asked while studying biology and compared them to questions of individual worth and unique roles.

I believe… that every species has an important role to play on our planet,” she said.

Grose said life is diverse and a way to measure diversity is by numbering species. There are about 11 million species of cellular life, which she said keeps biologists busy.

“(This amount) also means that in order to succeed on the planet, a species must have a purpose and place,” Grose said.

She shared examples of species with essential and unique functions and how they impact the environment. For instance, when a sea otter is removed from its habitat, the amount of sea urchins increase. These sea urchins then contribute to disappearing kelp beds. The impact of the sea otters removal is dramatic and affects many other species in the habitat, she said.

Grose said during her 11 years teaching biology at BYU she has learned that each student, like the sea otter, “has an individual and unique role to play and unique talents and gifts.” 

She continued by telling the story of Anne Frank, whose secret annex she visited during a recent trip to Amsterdam. Anne lived in the annex, which her father built, for two years as she and her family hid from the Nazi army.

Anne kept a meticulous diary during this time, which Grose said “has inspired countless (people), including survivors of similar unimaginable difficulties.”

Grose said she also is inspired by Anne’s story and writing.

“(Anne’s story) is a story of one person’s great talents … interacting with many other great talents,” she said.

Grose said these other great talents include Anne’s father, who worked to keep his family safe. Later, as the only survivor of the eight who lived in the annex, he fulfilled Anne’s wishes by publishing her diary.

The question, Grose said, is how do people find their talents and purpose? She said she has spoken with many students who say they are unsure of their future and do not know which path to take.

“Too often we compare ourselves to the one person who seems sure of their path, rather than to the twenty like us who are searching for their path,” she said.

We can find and develop our talents through the Savior and His atonement, Grose said.

“In all cases, our ability to utilize our time, energy and talents is completely dependent upon our Father in Heaven and on our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” she said. “He knows our potential and unique talents better than anyone.”

Grose said though we have God’s help, life won’t always be easy nor will prayers always be answered immediately and in an obvious way.

But, she said, if we move forward “over all of the rocks, through the twists and turns, relying on Him, He will be there for us.”

Grose said God will direct each person to become their best self and find their own “ecological niche.”

“If you find yourself struggling at times, if you are in the midst of your long-suffering, take heart and have faith,” she said. “Believe that you have unique talents that are unmatched in the world.”

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