Science major revived

This weekend, I traveled with a bunch of my fellow science majors to Vancouver, WA, where we attended an undergraduate research conference.

I was excited because I’d have the opportunity to get off campus for a few days and try something I’d never done before.

But then I was really nervous. Practicing my poster with my lab mates didn’t go well and I found a dreaded typo in the second word of my poster title. We were going to be presenting one day earlier than everyone had been telling me, and I was starting to think I would just look like an idiot. I wanted to bail, but—faulty poster and lack of confidence aside—I was committed.

Even though the beds were soft at the hotel, I kept waking up all throughout the night, and when my alarm rang in the dark at 6am, I opened my eyes with an emotional state best illustrated by the distant sounds of a crying baby.

The day had come far too quickly. And it promised to be very long.

Still, the poster session actually went well. I only had to stand by it for an 1hr 45 min. People came by and I gave the spiel, they asked questions, one lady critiqued a stylistic preference. My throat got really dry. But then I got to walk around the next session and look at other students’ projects. And I got a nap sometime soon after that.

I listened to quite a few students’ talks on projects within the life sciences, and throughout the 20-minute presentations, I was able to story-plan, which gave me a happy multitasking medium. Friday night, a biophysicist talked about the fascinating work in her lab artificially constructing microtubule aggregates and interactions. (Microtubules are one of the key structural components of cells). My roommate and I were nerding out. I would have nerded out more if I wasn’t so tired.

As exhausting as it was, it was fun. And as I sat through the presentations, and stood talking about my own research, I could feel something stitching back together.

This conference, this celebration of science and all the work involved, helped remind me of why I loved the discipline. Why I became a science major.

Science had begun to lose my favor as I got bogged down with cramming information in my head and reading academic journal articles and writing lab reports. But science is more than that.

Undergraduate biology major is a foundation. It has taught me how to think, to reason, to look at data and draw conclusions. It has given me introductory information with which I can gravitate toward whatever concentration takes my interest, and understand a wide variety of biological subjects and techniques.

I may not have a career in science specifically, but I’m still glad I’m a science major. It still fits. It still speaks to my heart in some way that I thought I was losing. After graduation, this scientific foundation’s role will be different than I expected, but it will still be very important.


Part of the terror of forging and cultivating relationships is that we are flawed. Hopelessly, agonizingly flawed. To care very deeply about someone else is to open yourself up to being hurt by them.

But even more terrifying, at least for me, is the knowledge that to whomever I allow and encourage to get close to me, whoever has given me a piece of their heart, as they hold a piece of mine—I am inevitably human. I am flawed.

And sometime along the line, I will hurt them.

A misplaced word, a thoughtless action, a lost temper, neglecting to communicate, conflicting interests, failure to support them well enough when they need me. As hard as I try to keep my faults self-contained, I will fail those I care about. Somehow, some way, I will hurt them.

My only hope is that those I have chosen to surround myself with trust me enough to know my overall intentions are good, to know that I am trying, even when I fall short, and to be willing to be open and honest with me, continuing to love me even when they see the cracks, the blemishes, the scars. Even when my mistakes end up burning them directly.

If it were up to me, I would shoulder all the hurt of my mistakes. I would make it so that no one else had to be affected when I fall. But to be connected to someone else is to impact them. For better or for worse.

Still, in the midst of this fearful give-and-take, I have realized something. I have come close enough to my dear ones that I see, at least in part, their weaknesses, their barbed insecurities—the hurts and fears that have the potential to sabotage their relations with other people (and me, by association). I see where we clash. Pet peeves committed and tolerated in return, frustrating habits, things that sometimes make me worry we’ll drift apart.

But even as I see this, I find I still love them.

For their flaws, in spite of their flaws. For the people they are and the people they want to be. For their innermost selves, in seeing the things that set their hearts on fire. For the sacrifices they have made. For the ways they have sought to connect and leave an impact on this earth. All of it.

My dear ones are imperfect and dangerous, just as I am. But they are so much more than their faults. So I trust them, I support them, I risk connecting with them.

Because I love them dearly.

Lovely Science Burnout

My roommate and I are not science majors.

I mean, we are, technically. But we’re kind of strange science majors.

We both became embroiled in this facet of academia with the idea that we wanted to go into the medical field. She into nursing and myself into physical therapy. I had always been a science nerd, and biology was a good fit.

But as life and college and classes went on, we realized that studying and facts and research for extended periods of time were not for us.

At least not for right now. My roommate may or may not study nursing further down the line, but me—after college, I’m jumping ship.

And as we have a particular distaste for studying, easily illustrated by my degeneration to a whining immature puddle of nope the night before an invertebrate zoology exam, the burnout is hitting us hard. It’s week 11 of fall semester. Regardless of the fact that we have lost all motivation for academia, we’re in the beginning of the windup for this semester, and we have a good six months left before we graduate.

My roommate has a heart for people, fellowship, connection, and mine is for words, color, communication. And these come into play in the science world—but currently not in the ways we need in order to stay sane.

So most of our time is spent with our minds elsewhere.

But sometimes we have to be dragged kicking and screaming back to our responsibilities, because supposedly we want to graduate. At this point, that goal is a do-or-die. I have to pass my classes because if I don’t, I might just peace out.

If we make it, my roommate’s thinking of going to work for a non-profit after graduation and, God willing, I’ll be going on to art school and book writing.

But for now, we are science majors, hanging onto our interest in the discipline for dear life.

And I have to force myself to remember that no matter what happens, even when I feel like I should be able to do better, I am doing the best I can right now. And that’s all I can do. And that’s ok.

I find I like that word a lot: Ok.

All right.




As a recovering perfectionist, I need such words.