How research became BAE…hot teachers and not

I knew I wanted to do research the moment I had realized that it was a career that would have allowed me to fulfill my never-ending curiosity. Giving purpose and meaning to my slight obsession of comparing, evaluating and reviewing every single thing and aspect of my life. From buying a new shampoo to finding a new house, I have always extensively researched without knowing it. So when it came to actually doing “proper research” I found the it to be a natural extension of my daily activities.

Having always had a fascination to things and a propensity of asking “why” for everything since a young age (at the expense of my poor mother) I was drawn to pursuing a life in science. During my teenage years I was totally in love with  quantum mechanics and inorganic chemistry. Also my physics teacher was pretty hot, so that helped a LOT (Shout out to Professor Iula for converting me into a STEM girl, ILY).

My first favorite experiment as far as I can remember was when I had the chance to test the theory of quantum and Bohr’s atomic model by lighting up different chemical substances. Based on the quantum “energy jump”, the compounds produced different colored flames. It was sooooo pretty and it made me realize that science was not only about gross things (Yes I am talking about you microbiology). 

From Schrodinger’s enigma of the half-dead and half alive cat to the theory of relativity of Einstein possibly explaining the reason  why my time with idiots seemed to be slower, I knew it. I wanted to do science for life. But… there was a little (and rather fat) problem. My math SUCKEDDDDD. It was not that I wasn’t smart enough. It is just that I have the attention span of a chimpanzee and going through complex and multi step calculus problems to realize that my results were wrong because I read my “4” as “9” made me go bonkers.  I could never be an accountant and neither a calligraphist because the Lord almighty knows that writing neatly is a quality I never had as a girl.   

So when it came to university I decided not to challenge myself and opted for biomedical science. Mainly because there was not a very large portion of mathematics. Plus my Asian mother was happy that the course itself contained the word “medical” so all in all it seemed like a pretty good deal. I didn’t have many expectations about the course and went with an “open mind”.

Fast-forward three years I do not regret taking the “easy way”. I was lucky to choose biomedical science because I found a new source of interest: neuro-immunology. I will never know what would my life have been like if I had pursued a chemical/physics degree but I sure know that wherever I am now, I am happy. Researching the brain and neuro-immune interactions brought excitement and joy in my life. I genuinely looked forward to going to the lab to take care of my “little cell culture babies”. Moreover, I also take a lot of pleasure in writing up research projects because it puts together two hobbies of mine: reading and writing.

My new found love for science this time was not due to a hot teacher because, if we have to be brutally honest, none of my faculty professor were even close to being 2/10 on a hotness scale BUT they were all very passionate. They were very intelligent, committed to their research and very motivated. I had the pleasure to work with one in particular that was equally brilliant as a teacher and as a scientist. He pushed me to go beyond the superficial and challenged me to think outside the box.

I have to admit that choosing to do research was not always roses and unicorns, and that there were times were I cried a lot and questioned if I indeed a good fit for it. Going trough scholarship rejections, seeing experiments fail miserably, being mistreated by rude and moody academics and many other misfortunes… It was REALLY hard. However, looking back, I am glad of the challenges I have faced because it made me realize that being a researcher was not an easy task and that if I really wanted to be one, I had to stop being a wussy and toughen up. It also made me realize that a boring 9-5 jobs was one of my worst nightmares.

I am still scared and unsure of were this path of doing research will lead me but one thing I know for certain is that this is RIGHT FOR ME. Like Marie Kondo once said “if it sparks joy, you have to keep it”.

What about you? What was your “I want to do this for the rest of my life” moment?

Let me know below.




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