Why I Chose to Study Biology

Hi, friends! This is the first post in my new “Becoming Dr. Aly” series, where I take you all along with me as I work toward my goal of earning a PhD. To start, I’ll tell you why I chose to study biology. I hope you enjoy reading my story!

Over the course of my life, I have wanted to be many things. There was a point in time where I wanted to be a singer, another in which I wanted to be a teacher, or a writer, and another in which I wanted to be a doctor. Still, one of my main passions has been to help people be the best they can be.

Specifically, I have always loved teaching. As a preschooler, I would line up all my little baby dolls on my couch and teach them the alphabet. As an older student, I would help my friends when they had difficulty understanding concepts. To this day, I still enjoy tutoring younger students and my peers. Teaching and helping others just comes so naturally to me.

I also loved science class. I got good grades and the concepts were easy to understand, but I never considered studying biology. When I was fifteen, I took my first high school biology class. I was fascinated by the chemistry, genetics, and cell biology. I found myself doing research on the topics outside of class. I would also be excited to talk about what I had learned in biology class. Still, I had never thought about it as a career path. All of my friends wanted to go into artistic fields, so I thought that should be the right career path for me, too. I felt that I was wrong for considering something else.

During my junior year, a local community college was hosting a summer program for high school students. In this program, we were put into groups to invent and execute our own experiments while taking a college class. I thought it would be a good way to try out the science career and the college experience. Along with a few other students from my high school, I was accepted into the program.

Those were a tough six weeks for my sixteen year old self. I was the youngest program participant and was assigned the position of team leader. Along with the responsibility of being in charge of our project, I had to keep up with my intensive college algebra class.

Everything that could go wrong with the project did. The equipment came late, and when it came, it broke. During the day of the final presentation, some of my teammates couldn’t make it (all due to legitimate reasons). I was left to give the presentation with another teammate who did not understand the experiment.

Still, I liked being able to solve the problems we faced. It was a great experience of making things work despite the challenges. I realized that despite the roadblocks, it was a great learning experience. On the bright side, I aced the college algebra class! That’s when I realized that I wanted to pursue a career in science.

When I graduated from high school, I wasn’t sure what division of science I wanted to pursue: physics, chemistry, engineering, math, or biology, but I knew it was going to be one of those. So, for my first year of college, I took the general requirements for any of those majors: English composition, calculus, physics 101, chemistry 101, and some electives.

Then, I was about to start my second year, my parents were hosting a couple from out of state who are doctors. They were asking me about my schooling. They told me they both majored in biology during their undergraduate years. When they said the word “biology”, something inside of me clicked. I suddenly knew that was where I was supposed to be. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. My dad is an engineer, and I realized I didn’t want to do what he does. He works with mechanical things; I wanted to work with living things. That was when I officially decided to change my major to biology.

One day, I stumbled upon the office of undergraduate research on campus. I thought it would be a great idea to apply to one of the student research programs because I could gain some experience in my field. I did, and I was accepted! I started working full time in a lab the summer of that year.

That summer, I realized exactly what I wanted to do: I wanted to become a science college professor and researcher. Once that hit me, I realized, “of course that’s what I want to do!” It made sense, because I’ve always had a passion for teaching and learning.

Ever since then, that has been my end goal: to teach and research in the molecular biology or genetics field at a university.

After I graduate with my Bachelor’s degree, I plan to attend graduate school and earn a PhD in genetics or molecular biology.

How did you choose your field of study? What’s your end goal?

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Things I Learned This Summer

Hi friends! In previous posts, I’ve mentioned that I spent the summer away at an internship. I didn’t give any details because I wanted to wait until I was back home before I said anything on the blog or social media about it. Now that I am back, I can officially discuss my summer internship experience with you all!

I spent this summer at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Cornell has been my dream school for years, so I was extremely excited to get this opportunity. The first few weeks were an adjustment, since upstate New York is very different from Florida. It’s beautiful, but in a different way. Here are some pictures I took around campus and while hiking through Ithaca’s waterfalls.

I learned a lot this past summer, so I decided to write about a few of those things! Here they are:

Feel the fear, but do it anyway

I was nervous to spend the summer in a new city, away from my family and friends. Still, I knew it would be a great opportunity for me to grow, not only as a young professional, but as a person. It was intimidating to live so far away from home for such a long time but I did it anyway. I did miss home a lot (it would hurt me to open my weather app and my hometown would always be the first city to come up…), but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I think my parents took it harder than I did.

Trust God’s timing, not your own

Last summer, I applied to the very same internship program. Unfortunately, I didn’t get in. I was sad about it for a little while, but I knew I could try again next summer. Now that I’ve actually had the experience, I think it was for the best that I didn’t go last summer. Throughout the past year, I have matured and become more capable of standing on my own two feet. I knew that not being accepted was God’s way of protecting me. He knew (even though I didn’t) that it would have been much harder for me at that point in my life.

Don’t stay in your room

As an introvert, I would feel more comfortable staying in my room than going out. But just like everything in life, there must be a balance. It’s okay to hang out in your room every once in a while, but it’s also okay to go out every once in a while. Go and eat out with your friends. Go to the living room and talk to your roommates. It’s true that the best memories I have of this trip were of spending time with my roommates, not of being alone in my room.

Be respectful of others, and they will be respectful of you

One of the things I was worried about before starting was that my roommates and labmates wouldn’t like me. But (unless they are truly awful people) if you respect them, they will respect you in return. I used this strategy, and it worked! I got along well with my roommates and my internship-mates. We ended up spending a lot of time hanging out together and we still keep in touch.

Routines are great, but you’ll learn a lot if you take a break from them

I love routines. I could swear by them. But this summer, I took a break from my routine to try something completely different. I actually created new routines and a new normal when I was away. After a break from my usual routine, I am now ready to get back into the swing of things and begin my senior year back at my home school.

I had a lot of fun this past summer. It was a fantastic learning experience that I am so thankful for. I hope to be able to return to Cornell soon!

How was your summer?

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Summer 2017 Favorites

Hi, friends! Happy August! I’m so sorry that it’s been a while since my last blog post. Many of you may know that I spent the summer interning in a lab at my dream school! I have had a great time, made amazing friends, and learned so much. I’ll write more about my internship experience in a future post, but for now, here are the things I’ve been loving while I was away!

Songs:

Find Yourself by Before You Exit & Great Good Fine Ok

My favorite band, Before You Exit, recently released a song with their friends, a duo known as Great Good Fine Ok. It’s a fun, upbeat, dance-able song with a good message: don’t let someone find you until you find yourself. They released a very aesthetically pleasing music video for the song, too. It was filmed a few weeks ago when the two groups performed the song together for the first time in New York City during one of Great Good Fine Ok’s shows.

Getaway by Parachute

This song by Parachute, another one of my favorite bands, definitely describes the way I feel about this summer. It has been a getaway from my usual routine to try something new. So, I have chosen this song as my “theme song of the summer.” I know that when I hear it in the future, it will bring back the wonderful memories I am making right now as I explore a different part of the country.

 

Movies:

Spider-Man: Homecoming

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I have not stopped tweeting about this movie and about the star of the movie, Spider-Man himself, Tom Holland. Ever since I saw the new, Marvel Cinematic Universe version of Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War, I was looking forward to a solo Spider-Man movie. I had very high expectations and it did not disappoint. It was so much to watch. I’ll definitely be going to see it again.

 

Wonder Woman

Okay so I might not have seen Wonder Woman yet, and I’m not too much into the DC cinematic universe (it’s a little too dark for my taste), but I’ve heard so many great things about this movie that I’ve decided to give it a chance. I’ll watch it when I get the opportunity.

 

Activities:

Writing

Along with my internship, writing has been keeping me busy. I haven’t been writing much for the blog because I was given the opportunity to write for Uloop, a website geared toward college students. I think a lot of you would like it, so check it out! Check out my posts here!

Hiking

The city I spent this summer in has a lot of beautiful hiking trails, so I’ve spent a fair amount of time hiking, too. I’ll post more pictures later, but here’s one I really liked!

Researching grad school

Now that I am a rising senior, it’s time to start applying for graduate school! I remember thinking a few months ago that grad school was so far away, but now it’s staring me in the face. When I wasn’t in the lab, hiking, or writing, chances are, I was looking at grad school programs and how to prepare for them.

(Would you guys be interested in posts about my grad school application journey? Let me know in the comments!)

 

How did you spend your summer? What songs, movies, and activities have you been loving? Let’s talk in the comments, I miss talking to you all!

 

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Life is Too Short

Hi, friends. I know a lot of you like my blog because I try to post positive things and spread happiness. This post is different than my usual posts; it’s long and a bit of a roller coaster, because that is what my life has been these past few weeks.

 

My cousin and I went to see Before You Exit in concert a few weeks ago. They are a three piece, guitar based band of brothers (think: Jonas Brothers). We decided to splurge on the VIP package, and it was worth it. We got to meet the guys and attend a small Q&A/acoustic performance session. I was starstruck when Riley, my favorite member of BYE, answered my question. During the meet and greet, they asked us how we were doing, said they were happy to see us, and gave us tight hugs. It was quick, but I’ll never forget it.

Back in April, they announced that Christina Grimmie would be opening for them. I had heard about her before, but I hadn’t bothered to check out her music (I don’t know why, I was missing out). But I decided to listen to her music and watch a couple of her videos to get to know her. Like anyone who has ever watched a Christina Grimmie video, I instantly loved her. She was genuine, goofy, and relatable. She spoke about the nerdy things she loved, like video games, without regard for what others would think. She also spoke openly about her faith in God, which was refreshing. Her voice blew me away. I sing in my church’s choir, but when I heard Christina, I felt ashamed to ever open my mouth again because she was that good.


Photo Credit: Mackenzie Bearup Photography

The concert itself was a lot of fun. We were standing at the barricade in front of Christina’s piano, so I’m positive she saw us jumping and screaming. When the show ended, there was atmosphere of such celebration, joy, and love. I recognized BYE’s friends and family members who were in the audience. I saw Christina, too. I wanted to say hi to her and tell her about how much she inspires me to be a better musician, a better person, and a better follower of Jesus. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance, and now I regret it…

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