Finding Your Niche

By: Kristen Smith

It has always been instilled in me the act of service. From establishing my own community service club on Tougaloo College campus in 2018 to serving free lunch meals at my local community kitchen, I am always finding a way to engage in community service. I have always been interested in the healthcare field because it directly revolves around being able to serve. Self-expression can be defined as “the expression of one’s feelings, thoughts, or ideas.” I would undoubtedly say that science has been my act of self-expression for me. Not only because it continuously allows me the opportunity to become more knowledgable, but also because it plays such a substantial role in our current lives and future.

Although there have been challenges, such as adjusting to the science curriculum of a Biology major at Tougaloo College, I have learned many valuable lifelong skills and lessons. One of the most important skills I have been able to develop are my time management skills, which will be used for the remainder of my matriculation through school. Last summer, I was able to conduct biomedical research in a Pharmacology Lab. Working directly in a science research environment, I believe I was able to strengthen my critical thinking, analytical, and problem-solving skills. However, I would like to master these skills even more. Though my journey is far from the end, I am grateful I have been able to find a subject that interests me, a subject that is always changing. Not simply changing, but continuously changing for the better. Science is an ever-changing topic that is always in the works of improving what we currently use, that is what completely fascinates me. I am an advocate for STEM programs; these can help engage young students matriculate into the science community and steer them away from distractions. Science STEM programs are amazing because they can keep students actively focused on topics that will always be in their lives.

Of all of the circumstances I have encountered, during my journey, science has kept me going. I would say that science means more than an act of self-expression; it has kept me grounded, focused, and eager to continue. When I faced adversity, I noticed that science information has always been able to catch my attention and help me realign my focus on pursuing my career in the healthcare field. Because I am interested in the healthcare industry and its future, I am thankful for STEM programs, such as these, Vanderbilt PAECER scholars program, and Tougaloo College SLAM programs for high school students, which can help motivate students to pursue science. One thing I have learned the most from talking to my peers and family members, mostly around my age, is that there is no rush to the finish line. After hearing all of the positive news in science, sadly, some of my closest peers have received rejection letters from medical schools, dental schools, research programs, etc. Science is excellent, but there will be disappointments and adverse research outcomes, but we the chance to keep going. I have learned that it is all about choosing the right “niche,” regardless of what others around you may think. Lastly, there is an imaginary “race” to the finish line, but in reality, the direction you are going will always be more important than speed.

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