Are you studying for a career in the sciences? Not sure where to begin to gather that lab experience that is oh so important for obtaining your degree and landing a great job? Our Math and Science intern Wilson shares his experiences of finding his place as a student researcher and shares the four lessons he’s learnt both inside and outside of the lab.
For almost 2 years now, I have been a student researcher at UCLA studying the physiology of anxiety in youth with autism spectrum disorders. This position has opened my eyes up to the professional, research-oriented community and taught me to dismiss some of the common misconceptions I had before I received this opportunity. Here are a few things I learned on my way to becoming a student researcher.
To study abroad or not to study abroad? It’s a question that confronts college students on a frequent basis, introducing an inevitable flurry of related questions that plague us: when should I go? Where should I go? WHY should I go??
Well, in an attempt to help you tackle those questions for yourself, our editorial intern shares his experiences of studying abroad in Rome and lists the 5 things you will reap by the bucketload should you decide to take the leap (and take it from us, you definitely should!):
“You don’t need to lose it to know that you had it good.” John Mayer puts it perfectly in his song “Another Kind of Green,” playing off the metaphor “the grass is always greener on the other side.” How many times in your life has it taken losing something to make you realize how good you had it? Although the song was referring specifically to relationships, this is true of so many other situations: a tough job, a class that’s giving you a hard time, an initially socially awkward moment, drudging through practice for a sport…
I’ve had this happen to me many times in life. Partly because I’m a fickle person by nature and always second guess my decisions. A girl I swore I wanted nothing to do with seemed like the greatest thing in the world the second I broke up with her. The one time this hasn’t been the case is when I studied abroad. This was the one time in my life that I knew I was having the time of my life while it was happening. That’s a really cool feeling to have. I remember FaceTime’ing my mom while walking through the cobblestone streets of Trastevere (my neighborhood) with a huge smile on my face explaining my new life on the other side of the world (between her sobs and complaints that she missed me).
And no, it’s not the kind where seven people are picked to live in a house. In our editorial intern’s final post, she tells you all the things you shouldn’t waste your time worrying about in this time of inevitable worries—graduation.
Today is my last day as an intern at eNotes. Because they’re promoting me to an EXECUTIVE POSITION.
Hah, just kidding. They’re kicking me out. My internship has run its course and now we must part ways (sigh).
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately. As I walk away from this position and from my previous college lifestyle, I can’t help but feel like scissors are snipping at the ties that connected me to these things. Many things are finished and done. And it feels a little like that painful moment someone harshly yanks the blinds open after you’ve been sitting in a dark room for 5 hours.
Life after college…is a really strange thing. I’d like to equate it to a baby bird’s first flight. That moment you leave college is the same moment someone kicks you square in the back. You start to freefall downwards and it’s exhilarating but scary. You don’t know how to flap your wings or gain altitude because you’ve never done it before, but you’re trying with all your might to do something—anything. You know that you are capable of flight, you can feel it as the adrenaline rushes through you.
I think we are all humming Tom Petty in our heads right now.
When we leave college, we’re free for the first time. No homework, no essays, no school responsibilities. No strict guidance, no tunnel vision, no more college microcosm. We can take our lives in any direction we choose to. But that doesn’t mean we necessarily know how to handle the situation or understand it fully. That doesn’t mean that we’re going to know how to grasp the real world off the bat, or even comprehend it. We’re thrown into it, and told to make it work. We know we can because a lot of people can. We know we can because we have a desire to and that desire fuels us. But we’re young. I’m not talking about age. I’m talking about our understanding of the world and of who we are. We’re young. So, it seems, the freefall is the only way we can prompt self growth, but it’s definitely not the most comfortable of feelings.
I’m undeniably in this free fall right now. I’m actually writing to you as I pummel toward the earth.
In the past couple of weeks, I’ve done a lot of worrying. A whole lot of worrying. To me, it makes perfect sense. New world, new life, new opportunities, and decisions that need to be made…these are all things that bring their own baggage—their own sets of worries and stressors. Throw ‘em all together and you’ve got one huge, heavy mess.
There’s a good chance this will happen to you at some point, so I’m going to go ahead and help you through it. There are some things that don’t need to be worried about. But we worry about them because we don’t realize we’re worrying about things that don’t need to be worried about. Let’s pretend like that sentence was really clear and not a run-on at all.
Here are some things you shouldn’t waste your time worrying about, like I did.
- Don’t worry about failing. If you’re chasing something—a goal, a dream, a degree, a career—just chase it, with all the gusto you have. Don’t let your mind be boggled by the potentiality of failing. It will distract. You likely won’t fail. And if you do, well…failure is also a good thing. It teaches. The best lessons are learnt from failing at something. Either you succeed at your dream, and move on, or you fail at it, and move on. Both of these things will leave you more knowledgeable about yourself, about life, and about what you really want from both of those things. Hello…this is a win-win.
- Don’t worry about what your life is going to look like in 25 years. Mini van. Dog. Three kids. A house. Early retirement. It’s good to have an idea of what you want your life to look like, and it’s good to take action to make those things more of a possibility. But stop stressing over them. Most of our plans are just rough drafts or sketches anyways. Things rarely happen the way we expect or plan on them to. So why dwell? Silly goose.
- Don’t worry about things that haven’t happened yet. “If I don’t get this job then I’ll be unemployed and I’ll lose all of my friends because I won’t be able to go out anymore and I’ll just have to hang out with a dog and talk to it and I’ll eventually lose all my money and my apartment and my ability to remain hygienic and basically my life is going to be OVER.” Yes, let’s not do this. Half of the things we worry about are things that haven’t come into fruition yet. They’re thoughts. Little puffs of air that we catch in jars and then stare at until our eyeballs hurt. There’s nothing there. Stop staring. Stop it! Be in the present, not trapped in the different futures you’ve managed to paint. If something worry-worth actually occurs, worry about it then, but only then.
- Don’t worry about what your friendships and relationships will look like as your life moves forward. Just keep in touch with your friends and loved ones. Those who remain in your life are meant to, those who don’t might turn up again later or might not. We can’t control these things except by how much effort we put forth. So show that you care and love these special people, but don’t worry that they’ll leave you. That just makes for messes, drama, and crying. The kinds of emotion you feel during the gut-wrenching, tear jerking portion of a rom-com. Yuck.
- Don’t worry about finding a perfect career that’ll last you a lifetime. This is just silly. In life, we change constantly, and so do our interests. It’s not really probable to assume that a career you pick now will make you happy forever. In all likelihood, it won’t. In order for you to actually succeed at and enjoy your career, you will need to find work based off of what you feel in the present—what’s driving you now. So, with that in mind, there’s no need to worry about finding the perfect career that’ll last forever. Just find yourself a path that feels right for right now. Don’t worry so much about what happens later.
A wise man and renowned poet named Robert Sylvester Kelly (commonly known as R. Kelly), once sang to the heavens these famous words: “I believe I can fly.”
Well, friends, I believe you can fly.
It’s been nice knowing you, folks.
How eNotes’ Math and Science intern overcame his trouble with the sciences and learned to love his Biochemistry major.
Science: the subject that many find so difficult to understand (and so boring to even attempt to understand) that they just dread learning about it, dread having to sit in class and listen to the teacher ramble on about atoms and cells and forces of nature. In high school, I used to be the type of student who wanted to ditch my chemistry and biology class. Seriously, who wants to hang around periodic tables and posters of cellular structures all day, and then have to study so hard just to learn on the test that you understood almost nothing? However, when I started college and began studying for my biochemistry degree (being Asian, I was heavily influenced to become a doctor), I began to realize why so many of us perform poorly in and, for some, even fear science. A 3rd year into my studies now, let me share with you my experience of overcoming the negative attitude and eventually growing to love this subject.
“Why do I need to learn this? When am I ever going to use this information in my lifetime?” These are questions that we’ve all asked at some point in our scientific studies. In fact, the professor of my public speaking course raised this question just 2 days ago, referring to the sciences. This is one of the many reasons that science classes may seem so difficult and scary. It seems so arbitrary and foreign to us, like learning a whole new language that we will never use, and school fails in making it seem less frightening, in making it more familiar. Instead, we are driven away by how test-oriented the material is and the amount of memorization that is required.
My love for the sciences began in my first physics and chemistry courses. We were learning about exothermic (release of heat) chemical reactions and kinetic energy. Sure, I understand that when favorable chemical reactions naturally occur spontaneously go towards products and release energy as heat, but what does this mean and why do I care? Out of frustration in how poorly I was doing in the class, I decided to approach learning science through another method. I began to explore where these concepts occur in my everyday world and that’s when I stumbled across explosions. Those beautiful explosions seen in fireworks and those awesomely crazy explosions seen in action movies can all be fundamentally explained by the basic concept of exothermic reactions. All that force, heat/light, and fire that we see as a result of an explosion is all due to a chemical reaction that releases a lot of heat, causing the rapid expansion of air molecules. How cool is that?! All that insanity due simply to a sudden, quick expansion of air molecules that help transfer heat! I’d never thought something so simple can be responsible for what we see in fireworks and explosions. This is when I realized that I can make science a lot easier and a lot more interesting to understand.
Over the last few years, I stumbled across more interesting applications of the concepts I was learning in class. In quantum mechanics, I learned that teleportation is possible and that scientists have already teleported incredibly small particles from one island to another (shout out to all those Star Trek fans who fantasize about traveling from one place to another in a matter of seconds). In physics and chemistry, I discovered the most efficient way to drive a car, meaning I can now consistently get above 40 miles per gallon in my 1996 Honda Civic, which is incredible considering that a lot of fuel efficient cars these days average about only 32 miles per gallon.
The main point I’m trying to get at is learn how the science can be applied and try to relate it to a phenomenon that you find fascinating, especially if you are someone who is currently struggling in your science courses as I did (my GPA actually dropped below a 3.0 when I started college). Explore the internet and answer that question your little voice keeps asking in your head, “When am I ever going to use this?” It’s what led me to finding better and easier ways to perform simple tasks, such as driving, cooking, and fixing broken appliances. Although it may be true that science comes more naturally for those who are left brain dominant, all you need to do is be creative and find some way to connect that scientific concept to something that really interests you, and you don’t need to be an Einstein to make that happen. In fact, that’s how most of us learn in other subjects, but science just seems so foreign at first that it’s hard to take that first, eye-opening step. Once you take that step, though, you’ll begin to realize all beautiful ideas and revolutionary technology arise from surprisingly simple concepts with a bit of imagination and experimentation. It’s what allows for the possibility of teleportation, the possibility of substituting electricity with quantum particles to make computing millions of times faster, the possibility of finding cures for life-threatening diseases, and the possibility of traveling through space and time. That’s pretty awesome if you ask me.
So, as Jesse Pinkman expresses it in Breaking Bad, “Yeah, science!”