I just named my son’s life’s work! OK, let’s back up.
Evan is 17 and dual enrolled at Northern VA Community College while he completes high school. He’ll be getting his A.S. in Psychology before transferring to George Mason to get a B.S. in the same, and also enter their accelerated Masters program in Psychology with a concentration in Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience. This is a tailor made program for him and I cannot believe it was the last school we looked at. In his idealized 17 year old brain, his life’s goal is to be remembered for doing, making, or discovering something, in the textbooks famous. In the crudest of forms, he is interested in pursuing eternal life and mental telepathy. That makes him sound crazy, doesn’t it? However, if you talk to him long enough, if you listen behind the teenage bluster, if you take what an adult knows and how things can possibly apply in the real world, he’s got a point.
After his biology class the other day, Evan was telling me about one of his theories. The degradation of telomeres at the ends of our chromosomes is responsible for the aging process. After a certain point, the telomeres are diminished to such an extent that accurate cell replication can no longer occur and dying of “old age” can happen. It is noted that in cancer cells, the telomeres do not deteriorate. Evan speculates that it is not an infinite failure to deteriorate, but possibly an order of magnitude of seven. So, he wants to figure out how to isolate the greater telomere regeneration in cancer cells and transfer it to healthy cells. He speculates that he’d be able to get the growth phase of humans to extend. But, I said, if the telomeres had that much more regeneration and created an extended growth phase, wouldn’t that create “bigger” humans? Yes, he thought, bigger humans, with more mass, for a longer time period before degeneration (aging) began. We would be a race of taller, younger looking humans – we’d be elves. To which I responded, YES Project ELF – Elongate Life Force! You need to call your thesis Project ELF! I then demanded credit for the name when he used it to submit his research grant at George Mason. We laughed. And then I told him I was serious, I wanted credit. In the textbooks.