I’ve gotten a few questions lately about my activities — why I do what I’m doing and such — so I thought I’d clue you all in on my raison d’etres. (Oh god, don’t know French, don’t know where to add the plural! Raisones d’etre? Maybe?)
I was, as you may be aware, a theatre/band/choir star in high school. I was the only person in my class to make all eight plays and musicals held during my four years in high school, and I had lead roles in five of them. I made all-state choir as a sophomore, and was the only girl in my class to make our school’s show choir my junior year. I was captain of the largest color guard in the state of Ohio, and we went to the Macy’s Parade my senior year.
So I came to MIT and joined the cheerleading squad, of course.
I came here with every intention of continuing my participation in the performing arts. I auditioned for (and made) two of MIT’s excellent a capella groups, and I picked up information about several theatre groups at the Activities Midway. And then I went home and sat in my room, which was conveniently located next to the floor closet. And Carenina ’03, a senior cheerleader, was pulling some of her belongings out of the closet at the time. She asked if I had considered joining the cheerleading squad, and I quite honestly said no (actually, I used to make fun of cheerleaders pretty viciously). So she talked me into coming to cheerleading tryouts the next day, and the rest, as they say, is history.
I’m actually really glad that I totally switched gears in college. I think I would have been sort of insufferable if I had continued the same activities at which I’d excelled in high school; I would have been all “oh, I remember the time when my high school group did X, it was so amazing, blah blah blah”. I think I might try and pick up singing again in graduate school, because now I have more distance from high school and I wouldn’t be trying to recreate my high school experience in a different area code.
I am working this term about 15 hours in the lab each week. I work on the weekends, on school holidays, and on national holidays. In 2004, I didn’t take a federal holiday off work until July 4 — I worked MLK Day, Presidents’ Day, Easter, Patriot’s Day (it’s a New England holiday), and Memorial Day. More than once, I have finished what I was doing at the lab and headed straight to Med. (Extracting DNA from mouse tails with a bladder infection is a poor choice, just in case you’re ever faced with the decision.)
I don’t have to do this. Nobody is holding a gun to my head and forcing me to come into lab (although sometimes my postdoc gives me kind of a sad face when I don’t come in). Ironically, the project that probably “got me into graduate school” because it’s being published in a really good journal and I’m coauthor — it’s the project that didn’t cause me to work overtime and on holidays.
The project on which I work long hours and weekends is a project that’s been mine from start to finish — I’ve done probably 98% of the technical work on it, and am largely free to pick the direction it goes in. It might not even get published if I don’t finish it by the time I graduate, because it’s my baby, nobody else’s.
Well, for one, see above. For another, I never wanted to be an MD because I get really queasy when I see human blood and human pain and whatnot. I almost barfed the other night while watching that freestyle aerialist who snapped her tendon. Cells in culture don’t go “Ahh! Ahh! Ahh!” when they’re in pain, thank you.
That’s actually another historical contingency story. I came here intending to major in Brain and Cognitive Sciences alone, perhaps adding a minor in Biology if I could handle it. At the beginning of sophomore year, I realized that I liked my biology classes a lot, and made a class plan for a double-major.
And then I stuck with it for the next six semesters, mostly out of sheer stubbornness.
I’m glad I did it, because I think I’ve gotten a very strong education in molecular and cellular biology (which is really my area of primary interest) while getting a very deep education specifically in neurobiology. Given my research interests, it would have been a really bad idea to just do the BCS major, and I think I would have missed out on a lot of information about brains if I had just done the biology major. But I didn’t really do it intentionally, so to speak — just sat down in the Biocafe one day with a copy of the course catalogue and went to town.
I just have a hand-waving explanation for this one, because right now biology is as natural to me as breathing, and I have trouble really explaining why I love it — it’s like trying to explain why you like happiness. Or sunshine. Or naptime.
So I hated biology in middle school and junior high — it was this stupid subject about biomes and predator-prey relationships, and it made me want to claw my eyes out with boredom. Freshman year of high school, I took Biology A with a fabulous teacher, and left the class definitely wanting to be a biologist. (Actually, I’m going to her class over spring break to talk about careers in science. Awww.) During the following summer, I attacked the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s popular science section, reading all the biology and science books I could get my hands on.
Yep, that’s actually the whole story. Sorry.
So I’m off to UC Berkeley and Stanford for interviews next week, but Adam is letting me take his computer, so I should still be in internet contact. Yay!