In the Leadership and Ethics class I'm taking with former Mayor Riordan, we had an interesting speaker a few weeks ago: Michael Phelps. It was the one on the right of the photo above, not the swimmer on the left. The one on the right, it turns out, is equally interesting (and athletic).
Michael Phelps is the inventor of the technology behind the PET scan, which he later sold to Siemens. He's now a professor at UCLA.
Phelps is Irish, and he began his story with an Irish saying: "When you lose something, you gain something." He taught that life is not about the plans you make but the people you meet. When his parents died, he began to live with a new family that introduced him to boxing. He was a boxer for 10 years and then went into a coma from a car accident. This made him switch away from boxing and go back to school.
Another one of his sayings was, "fake it 'til you make it." He had no background in math, but he studied math and chemistry and ended up getting a Ph. D. in chemistry. He then went on to join the faculty in the medical school at Wash U and now UCLA.
He started a company with two others that went on to create the PET scan. He developed PET while at Wash U, but the university claims no rights on inventions. (He said UCLA doesn't help as much and does take rights.)
PET works by emitting a positron that combines with an electron to annihilate mass and emit energy (2 photons). A camera collects 40 million such events and makes an image from thousands of slices. Positrons are massless, so there is no pharmacological impact, and the scan is safe.
Some other philosophical points he made: