Keep Calm and Continue to Learn

With “Pomp and Circumstance” on replay, and masses of students wearing Hogwarts style black gowns and orchid leis around their necks, graduation season marks the ceremonious finale of a challenging, yet exciting four years of our lives. Last month I graduated with a degree in Biological Sciences, B.S., and welcomed the new adventures that emerge with becoming a Gaucho alumnus. I am no longer an undergraduate student worried about doing well on undergraduate exams, meeting paper deadlines, or choosing courses for my major. Instead, I am now writing extensively to meet application deadlines, striving to do well on future interviews and finishing up my research commitment at UCSB. Although the tasks of “the real world” are different than those associated with coursework and student life, there remains a fundamental similarity in all these activities – one that we are so fortunate to experience everyday: We continue to learn

In lab this summer I’ve been reminded of this similarity. I may have graduated with a degree in Biological Sciences, but I am still learning new lab techniques, concepts and troubleshooting methods in order to maximize my experience, and contribute in a small way before I leave. The very concepts acquired through classroom learning are now the stepping-stones from which more specific and deep knowledge can be gained. For example, in one class, I learned about GFP as a protein visualization tool, and in lab, I recently learned how to use the powerful Nikon fluorescence microscope to observe GFP signals in early embryos of C. elegans.  I also applied concepts from an invertebrate zoology lab when I learned how to dissect adult worms using the same needles that doctors use to give injections. So, now, as a direct result of the classroom learning in undergraduate courses, I am able to apply the basic concepts learned to explore more specific and deep ideas, and to critically analyze fundamental questions and results. In this way, I’ve realized, learning must be coupled with action to make progress.

As I grow as a young scientist and future physician, I’m excited to continue this cycle of learning, and to use the new knowledge for a larger purpose to alleviate pain in patients. The sense of fulfillment and personal satisfaction that comes with applying a newly learned concept to advancing science, in a small way, or to medicine has also encouraged me to welcome this learning. Although my four years of classes, new experiences and personal evolution has officially concluded last month with my own Hermoine Granger black robe, and UCSB decorated cap, I will always keep learning for the progressive action that it can create.