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Alec Falkenham

B.Sc Biology '10, PhD Pathology

alec Falkenham

Deductive Logic was a turning point in my education – I was always looking for the arguments that defended a perspective or idea.

I graduated from Dalhousie with a BSc in Biology in 2010, but a few letters after my name and a major don’t give justice to the role Philosophy played and continues to play in my life. I’m now finishing up a PhD in Pathology at Dalhousie and believe that the success I’ve enjoyed in science and research (e.g. patents, publications, awards, and scholarships) can be attributed to my background in Philosophy.

I was introduced to Philosophy in 2005 by Dr. Susan Sherwin in the Dalhousie Integrated Science Program (DISP). In the Ethics in Science class, I learned about defending my perspective – a lesson that I’ve been applying to anything from science to my political views. Dr. Sherwin taught me that you’re always entitled to your opinion as long as you’re ready to defend it against counter-perspectives. Moreover, if you look at life from that perspective, you form an appreciation for how philosophical schools of thought shape our personalities and decisions.

Following a diversion into sciences in topics such as Microbiology and Immunology and Psychology, I found myself disenchanted with university and the way we’re taught to think about science. Science was presented as firm – concrete-like – yet if science was concrete, then how did it change? How did one researcher tear down the seemingly fixed state of a scientific idea to change a dogma?

After taking a year off, I returned to university and to Philosophy. The majority of my classes in the last year of my undergraduate degree were in Philosophy, including a class I believe should be mandatory: deductive logic. Dr. Abramson’s Deductive Logic class built on my experience in DISP, teaching me to think in logical arguments. Deductive Logic was a turning point in my education – I was always looking for the arguments that defended a perspective or idea. If the arguments seemed more like assumptions, then I saw an opportunity to fill a gap in knowledge. This was a particularly important concept in scientific research. Science was no longer concrete in my mind. Rather, research felt like a branch of Philosophy – a forum for ideas that had to be proven and defended. Notably, I was able to apply my philosophical approach in science to tattoo removal.

During my PhD, I became interested in how tattoos worked. Using deductive logic, I identified gaps in knowledge and filled those gaps to invent a novel technique for removing tattoos. This should come as no surprise, as many of our earlier scientists were philosophers. And while many may think my success is because I think “scientifically”, it was philosophy that made it all possible.