In 2244, Straal and his research partner Paul Stamets discovered a mycelial network spanning the universe that could be harnessed for rapid travel across vast distances. The two expected to receive the Zee-Magnees Prize when their research was completed.
When war broke out with the Klingons in 2256, Starfleet separated Straal and Stamets and pressed them into service developing a practical propulsion system based on their findings. Straal was assigned to lead the team on the USS Glenn. Six months into the project, Straal communicated to Stamets that he had made a breakthrough in the drive that allowed them to make far greater displacements than before, though Stamets was concerned that the process was unsafe. Shortly after, Straal and the rest of the Glenn's crew were killed during a catastrophic test of the new system. (DIS: "Context Is for Kings")