My Semester “Under the Scope”

I began this semester as a budding scientist ready to enter the bright world of medical research… I end it completely hating science.

Just kidding. But this past semester did help me narrow my focus of what I truly enjoy about science. Being “forced” to commit or engage in a subject that I love made me understand how big science really is, and I’m not only speaking about the field of science in general, or even simply the field of biology. I learned that I only, genuinely, enjoy medical science, but even within this there are two spectrums: the application of said science or the research of new information within the science. I stay true to the statement from my first blog post when I said that it is important to learn about all the fields within science, but I have learned that focusing on what I really love about science is also very beneficial.

Research has been a huge part of my undergraduate career as a follower of science, but over the past three years, specifically this semester, I have reinforced the idea that my true passion doesn’t lie with research but with the application of science to help people. Reading research articles in order to write better grant proposals and to conduct better experiments is not the way I want to apply my knowledge. I want to help people directly with my knowledge, as a doctor. Getting into medical school has been a goal for me since childhood, but as I near completing that goal, I realize that I need to change my dreams.Not many people want to become doctors–even less have the will power and intelligence to do so–and even less follow through with it. But I don’t want to be just another person who “follows through with it.”

My coach always said “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”

At the time, I would’ve been perfectly fine with having god given talent and not having to put in the work. Through my experience as a volunteer at a hospital, employee at a doctors office, and a grant-funded researcher, I have realized that giving extra effort makes all the difference. I have changed my goals from “just getting into med school” to exceeding in school and becoming a great overall doctor. I also realize that this isn’t a change that can be made overnight, so I plan to stop being lazy, going the extra mile, and really putting 100% effort into whatever I do. While my love for research has declined since I first walked into my lab, I am appreciative of the experience. It taught me valuable skills, but more importantly, it taught me to focus on what I want to do with science and what I need to do to be able to achieve my new goals.

A Changed Man

When I began this semester a short four months ago, I was a very different man. College was a romantic thing. It still had the magical appeal that it has to new freshman. There was still a lot I had left to experience. At that point in time, I was just happy to be going to college. Graduation was far away and I was not worried about a thing.

At some point throughout the semester, real life hit me like a truck. The reality that I had less than half of my college career left shocked me. I had a bit of an existential crisis to put it bluntly. What was I going to do with the rest of my life? I knew I was going to be in the Army, but that was about it.

In the beginning of Writing 3030, I treated it like a class that I just had to get through. I didn’t care about writing, and I sure didn’t care about science writing. Throughout the semester, my own existential crisis collided with assignments in this class and made me think about what I really wanted to do with my life. I knew I wanted to be in the Army, and I knew I wanted to end up practicing medicine. Where did the overlap occur?

I hadn’t found it yet. I just had to continue doing my assignments hoping that I could get a decent enough grade. It was finally our final project that helped me to search myself to find what I want. It’s funny, because nothing I have included in my project relates to what I want to do. It was the in the process of developing my final project though that I found what it is that I want out of life. It forced me to dig and to do some research relevant to my career goals.

While I can’t particularly say how my writing has improved, I do know that I am a more focused and motivated person now. I now know that I will join the Army and become a physician’s assistant. Because of my definite career plan, I am sure that my writing about the topic (which I did for my final project) will be an overall better project than if I began it at the beginning of the semester.

Final Reflection

The middle of junior year.   The time in college when I can FINALLY say that I’m more than halfway there, that the end is in sight.  This semester wasn’t marked by any sort of grand discovery or self-actualization on my part, but I still found it to be significant because it’s the first time that when I look behind me I can see just how far I’ve come.  Writing 3030 was also a noteworthy class because it is the first and only writing class I’ll ever take in my undergraduate career.  It was about what I expected it to be, but I found that I had forgotten how much I enjoy writing.  All of my classes that I’ve taken thus far are extremely heavy on math, which is fine, because I like math, but the addition of this writing class in my schedule made me remember how important it is to have balance.  It was oddly therapeutic to be able to take a break from my engineering homework to be able to work on a writing assignment.  I loved the fact that actual words and paragraphs on clean white paper were taking place of the endless numbers and symbols scrawled haphazardly on sickly green engineering paper.   And although I’m not claiming to have actually liked doing writing homework (and nobody would believe me if I did), it was nice to have different homework to do sometimes because it challenged me to think about the world in a different way.  Overall this writing class has been a positive experience for me and I was pleasantly surprised that a class I had been forced to take turned out to be so fulfilling.  It was also a nice reminder that there’s a lot more to the world than just numbers.

A Path Paved with Writing

Writing has never been my forte and (sorry to say) this four month long journey has not managed to change my opinion. However, it would be total nonsense for me to say that my writing (skill, technique, approach, etc.) has not improved at all because everything I have learned in WRTG 3030 has been a great experience and will help me further down the line in my career.

When I had first entered the class I had a variety of mixed feelings.

– I hope this teacher is nice.

– I hope this class does not turn out to be really boring.

– She won’t make us survey people, right?

– I really hope we do not have to write long papers.

I certainly felt a little discouraged when she immediately told us we’d be writing a 12 page final paper (that is very long to me) although it was nice that my other thoughts turned out well.  We, the class, were given much freedom in this class. Lectures, more or less, revolved around the students thoughts and every topic assignment (this blog included) we were handed gave us the opportunity to write about we wanted to. And, through it all, I have personally learned a great deal about professional, concise writing as well as have been given the chance to improve my public speaking.

Despite my lacking interest of writing, I have managed to thoroughly enjoy WRTG 3030 and hope that my reader(s) (Amy) have enjoyed the stories I have had the opportunity to tell.

A New Perspective on Writing

4 months ago when I signed up for Writing 3030 I had no interest in the class or writing in general for that matter. This is because my writing experiences in both college and high school have been too structured.  When I say structured I don’t mean teachers telling me how to write; no, I mean teachers telling me what to write. I just thought that this is how writing class were and the structure would always frustrate me because I had no passion in what I was writing; this made my final product poor and turned me off of the idea of writing.

Writing 3030 has allowed all of us in the class to express ourselves in our writing because the topics we were writing were so open ended. That aspect of the class was the most fascinating for me, because when I write about something I have interest in, my writing becomes that much better and easier to do.

Another misconception I had about writing when I entered this class was that I should use the most profound words possible while at the same time using the most words that I can fit into a sentence.<— (do you see what I mean?)

Our teacher, Amy, taught us that concise writing is key. Nobody wants to read useless words anyway, the only purpose they serve is filling space. I learned many things in this class but I believe concise writing is one that I will never forget.

 

Thanks Amy

Immaculee Ilibagiza: A Rwandan Genocide Survivor’s Story

On Monday, December 12, 2013, the University of Colorado at Boulder invited Immaculee Ilibagiza, Rwandan author and motivational speaker, to tell her story of how she survived the 1994 Rwandan genocide, found God, and came to forgive those who murdered her family.

She started off her presentation with a short video which introduced the beautiful country of Rwanda, showing off several landscapes throughout the country. The video then transitioned into the beginning of her story starting with the shooting down of the Rwandan president’s airplane and then, within one hour, the entire country turning into a mass of chaos.

She then proceeds to tell her personal story. Being brought over to her father’s friend’s home by her father, knowing she will never see him again. Being put into a 3′ x 4′ bathroom with 7 other women, almost being discovered by the rebels, and having to stay in said bathroom for 91 days before being let out. Part way through her concealment in the bathroom she had become an active believer of God, to which she believes is the reason she is still alive today.

Immaculee’s story was very heartfelt and emotion. On occasion I found myself welling up in tears and even some of the people around me were crying. She had told a beautiful story and even after all the terror she had gone through came to the decision to forgive her offenders and even met them face-to-face and consoled them. “We are not given the chance to decide what race we were born to, who our family is, or even what country we will live in. Anger is a poison. We need to learn to love ourselves so that we can come to love others.”

 

Cooking with Cardiology

Earlier this semester, I attended the South Denver Women’s Wellness Expo at the Denver University Neumann Center.  I got to listen to several key note speakers including Dr. Richard Collins, a Cardiologist, who shared a presentation on losing your belly fat while helping your heart and then he provided a cooking demonstration, starting with grapefruit quinoa salad, followed by a fish and bean dish, followed by dark chocolate almond truffles.

Dr. Collins introduced himself as the cooking cardiologist, indicating that he is both a chef and a cardiologist.  I really liked his stethoscope that had a wire whisk at the end of it, it was a nice touch that made him seem more approachable to the audience.  The first part of the presentation talked about eating healthy and talked about subcutaneous (visible) fat vs. visceral fat (fat around vital organs, such as heart lungs, digestive tract, and liver), which is far worse because it causes serious health problems including heart disease.   We need some visceral fat to provide necessary cushioning around organs, but too much is not healthy.  High carbohydrate intake = high insulin release, high refined carbohydrate intake = very high insulin release, higher insulin release = higher fat storage (belly fat).  For best health, waist size should be less than 35” for women and less than 40” for men.  We all should eat 10 grams of soluble fiber per day – example is 2 small apples, a cup of green peas, and ½ cup pinto beans.  We should eliminate sugary drinks.  Consuming an extra 100 calories a day will equal a 10 pound weight gain in one year.  Stress promotes overeating, fat storage, and belly fat.  Belly fat elevates cortisol, which triggers appetite, craving for sugar and fat, and weight gain.  To lose belly fat, we need to eat breakfast, low glycemic carbs, and balance protein fat and carbs.  We also need to increase intake of fiber, drink plenty of water, and slow down when we eat (eat mindfully).  In addition, we need to exercise, get enough sleep, and limit alcohol consumption.  All of this information was presented in a PowerPoint presentation which served as a useful visual tool.

After this, Dr. Collins proceeded with the cooking demonstration.  I was impressed with the his use of induction heating that uses an induction coil to heat a ferromagnetic pan from an oscillating electromagnetic field.  Induction is faster and significantly more efficient than gas or electric cooking.  It also provides very precise temperature control.   I was also intrigued by the African cooking pot called a tagine.  A tagine has a wide shallow base and tall conical lid design (looks like a funnel but it’s closed at the top) which recirculates moisture to keep flavor intact during slow cooking.

The first dish was a grapefruit quinoa salad.  Quinoa is a grain-like seed that is high in protein and fiber.  As he prepared the salad, he discussed the vitamin content and anti-oxidant properties of all ingredients as well as the immunity fighting properties of kale.  He also prepared a salad dressing that used agave.  Since Agave is about 90% fructose, it is sweeter than sugar allowing the recipe to require less of it to sweeten the dressing.

The second dish was a Mediterranean fish entrée that was cooked in the tagine.  An interesting tip was using vermouth to reduce the fishy taste.

The last dish was dessert.  He prepared dark chocolate almond truffles.   Dark chocolate is high in antioxidants and therefore healthy for the heart.  This recipe also uses agave to sweeten the chocolate.  Since it’s sweeter than sugar, we can use approximately 25% less in a recipe that calls for sugar.

It was very helpful and interesting for him to do a cooking demonstration after the PowerPoint presentation because it allowed the audience to learn some tips about cooking healthy and it served as a nice break from him simply lecturing the audience the entire time.  Overall I thought that Dr. Richard Collins was an extremely talented public speaker and his presentation did everything that a presentation should do.