I hated science as a kid.
I’m not sure if it was how it was presented to me in my early education, or if I just didn’t pay attention because I would rather be reading a book, but if you asked young Adrienne what was her favorite subject, science would be dead last. This also highlights just how little I knew about the journey to medicine: the practice of medicine is nothing without science. If I had known how important this fact was, I may have forced myself to like it much sooner.
But I think that I appreciate the field so much more now since I found my way to it on my own. When I started undergrad, I really had no idea what I was getting in to. I entered a classroom for the first time in over 10 years in the summer of 2013. I had always been an excellent student, so I didn’t think that the accelerated pace of the summer course would be challenging. I was so wrong. We took daily quizzes and I learned very quickly that I was not putting in the appropriate amount of effort. I was also pregnant with Orion at the time, so late nights were hard to come by. I had to teach myself to study not just for understanding, but to the level that was expected of me as a college student. Over the next three years, I feel that I learned this well and tried to pass the experience on to my fellow students.
There is one moment in particular that I will remember forever. It was when I fell in love with science. I was taking Genetics in my junior year. The course was one of my first upper level Biology classes, and one that students struggle with. We were learning about regulation of gene expression, essentially why some proteins are made while others are not. We learned about the synthesis of tryptophan, an amino acid, and its regulation by attenuation. I learned that synthesis of this amino acid is regulated down to the millisecond, a slight hesitation in synthesis machinery determines whether this gene is transcribed or not. I know I’m doing a terrible job explaining the process but I can say that I was in awe at the end of the lecture. I had so many questions: how was this discovered? How was the experiment designed? How smart do you have to be to make this kind of discovery? How did this highly convoluted process come out of evolution? I felt wholly inadequate and invigorated at the same time. I stayed after lecture to discuss the process with my professor, and she completely understood how I felt. Since then, whenever I read or learn about the discoveries of others, I still experience the same awe and intrigue.
In completing my own research, I feel like an impostor 100% of the time. I feel like the people that made these medical and scientific discoveries are so much smarter and more dedicated than me. I’m struggling in the lab this summer; I’ve had a few weeks in a row where things aren’t going as I would like. All external mishaps, such as my host cells being too old to host infection and dying before I have the chance to image them. Or spilling a tub of bleach on my brand new maxi dress. Not keeping up with my imaginary timelines. Frustrations that I feel I should have control over, which are wasting the short amount of time that I have to work in the lab before I head back to medical school. I took a step back this weekend to reflect. A lot of how I interact with my science has to do with the unnecessary pressure I put on myself. I want to do things “right,” using this imaginary, arbitrary guide which is impossible to attain. Then, I’m working on things that aren’t exactly clear, and I want it to be. I need to let the data speak to me and not the other way around. So this week, I’m trying to take a different mental approach. I know my protocol works. I got fresh host cells so I removed that variable. And I’m staying away from the bleach if I can. And I’m keeping my fashion AWAY from the lab. I’m going to go into the lab today and repeat this experiment for the third time because science can only move forward through work ethic and determination. And I have that.
Until next time,