Finding My Niche: My Journey in Science

By: Logan Long

Self-expression is something that is incorporated in every aspect of our daily lives. There are endless ways people can express themselves whether it’s through their clothes, how they style their hair, how they act, or even how they talk. Ultimately, self-expression should be individually guided and not something pre-determined by others. It is the idea of using your thoughts, ideas, personality, and what you find appealing, so you can express how you feel to others. Although self-expression is often thought in regards to the Arts, individuals can express themselves in any form or topic. One area being science. Self-expression in science can lead to creativity and individuality within the field. Like art, music, or literature, science can be self-expressive through the use of creativity to come up with explanations. Through these explanations, scientists tell stories by connecting bits of information in a way that makes sense; then they test these stories to see if they apply to real life.

My journey of self- expression in science began like anyone else’s, in a lab. However, my particular love developed in the summer of 7th grade in the STEM Program at Winston Salem State University. I was dissecting a Cow’s eye for the first time. Something felt natural when I peeled back my incision to glance at the layers of muscle revealed underneath the dissection. I guess that’s where my interest in ophthalmology officially began as well. Of course, at the time, I didn’t know how to interpret my newfound love. It wasn’t until high school when I first began to cater to my pathway towards science. Although most of the basic science classes were required, I decided to make them honors and take AP biology. My teacher went in-depth about the biology of the body and began to do laboratory experiments. I also chose to complete science-based electives like the PLTW biomedical course and Human Anatomy and Physiology, both of which were an introduction to the connection between medicine and science. I participated in science extracurriculars such as HOSA-Future Health Professionals, the National Science Honors Society, and the STEM program at UNCC. In my senior year, I had my first brush with medicine at an MD Calling camp, where I found a source to channel this interest in science. Soon after chatting with an ophthalmologist, my passion for ophthalmology officially surfaced.

This experience and a mission trip to Haiti encouraged me to take a major in Public Health. I wanted to understand how the current health policies and health behaviors shift in society. So rather than only sitting in classes listening to lectures about the structure of a molecule, I chose to combine my interest in health and science and become a public health major concentrating in pre-health. I had the opportunity of learning about the rapid changes in health trends in America and the prevention of various diseases while simultaneously learning about the pathways, genetics, and chemistry behind those diseases. In my biology and chemistry labs, my familiarity with lab techniques and equipment such as pipetting, PCR, purification, chromatography, and filtration began to grow as well. Currently, I’m still on the pathway of expressing myself within science. I’m searching for ways I can further my journey, specifically through research and clinical experience. However, programs like the Vanderbilt PACER-SURE program has encouraged me to narrow down and organize my ideas and take the initiative to seek out those opportunities. I’m now leaning towards research topics connecting ophthalmology to cardiovascular disease or neuroscience. I also realized that I want to pursue research in the future, maybe not through a Ph.D. but possibly during medical school or after residency through a fellowship. Although I still have a long way to go, this program has served as a starting point, and I now have a plan.

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