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For The Love of Science

Something I’ve learned about learning Science

To me, Science is a world where logical magic happens.

There is that eye-opening moment of realization where everything clicks into place and you understand it. You feel a warm bliss, almost a hug from the universe that resides in you, when you figure things out in a scientific problem.

But, many of us let that joy of figuring things out diffuse away as the going gets harder. The packed semester, the piling project work, the long homework assignments and those exams…there are countless ways to sweep the big picture of learning under the carpet of schedules and deadlines. Admittedly, I’ve faced the same challenge of seeing the line between just bluntly imbibing information and actually comprehending concepts. Often, this is apparent in subjects like organic chemistry, where it is easy to fall between the crevices when we don’t keep up with the practice. In situations like these, what I’ve found to be most helpful is really getting into the information that is being taught.

What do I mean? Even if you are silently wishing for the class to end and you are tired from being glassy-eyed throughout the lecture, just take a step back for a moment…and see the BIG picture.

If you are finding that it is hard to learn, just think about how hard it was for someone to create a fundamental idea that has sustained in Science for so long. Feel fortunate for the opportunity to have access to these ideas.

I know how it feels when the semester’s workload precipitates nothing but stress. Still, give the idea a chance before you begin to hate on it. May be, this could even guide you and give you clues towards what you are “meant to do”.

Consider my personal story. I was not very fond of Physics when I was younger. I don’t know if I had any specific reason to think so back then, but I shied away from it. Several years later, fast forward to becoming an engineering student in college, I had to love it. It was everywhere, weaved into every course, whether I liked it or not. So, instead of making it a stressful four years for myself, I decided to see what the chaotically beautiful world of Physics had in store for me. In every class, I would start out by pretending to be very interested in the topic. Perceiving it as my favorite thing to learn, I began identifying little bits of it that made me go WOW (Electrons, Photons, Nanorobotics and Tissue Engineering!). When the concepts got pretty intense, I would take even more interest in mastering them. I’d try to find out the whole back story of that concept and make the ideas more humane by connecting them with the pioneering Scientists. This not only made Physics more digestible, it made me realize that if we really set our minds to accomplish something, we really can achieve it.

Sitting in Engineering classes filled with 95% males, I used to feel like I was in a social vacuum as a woman. Slowly, when I began to prime myself, to disregard the environment, to focus on my ambitions, I exuded positivity and even made some good friends. I felt better inside when I recognized that I can overcome it even if it felt uncomfortable at that moment. This transition has been an essential component of my scientific learning experience.

It’s your place in the world. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live.
- Mae Jemison

On another note, if you already love some part of Science, like me with Medicine and Humans, continue to keep that affinity strong. As a student of Nanoscale Engineering, I love the idea of making big impacts with the tiniest of matter! There is an eye-opening world that exists in the small space, offering exciting possibilities, for the advancement of humankind (see other interesting articles below).

Speaking of which, the notion of not knowing what you don’t know is a point to ponder about in college. In Science, this means you just let the lecture fade away while you got stuck with some idea almost 20 minutes into class. It could be out of anxiety, the mere thought of embarrassing yourself in front of others or blissful ignorance. Needless to say, I’ve been there too. Sometime late in my freshman year, I realized that if I just stay in this rut, I’m going to get hired someday and not know my stuff. It hit me like heavy bricks every time I skipped over something that was hard to grasp. I even fought the cognitive dissonance for a while. Finally, I became resolute at some point, perhaps due to the fact that I was interested in some aspects of Science that I had initially thought I just couldn’t understand. To gradually ease into this, I made it my goal to ask at least one question in class per day. Soon, I noticed that if we seek help, the help is more than willingly offered. Don’t be afraid to ask questions because the embarrassing moment you play in your head a hundred times would be forgotten over the million other things Professors and students have to do over the course of the day. Pro tip: Knowing your stuff is a big deal.

As my undergraduate career is culminating, I see myself more as an admirer of Science. It is so wonderful if you just relax and gaze at its revolutionary voyage. Each time the going gets tough, be thankful that you are in a position to have the chance to wrap your head around such riddles.

If things get really bad, be fearless in the pursuit of seeking help and admitting that you need help. Consider being kind to Science — it is not a harsh field if you let it embrace you. Let it be an integral part of your learning experience in life.

Thank you for taking your time to read this, for the love of Science…