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?