Blogside Manner: She’s Pretty Kool….I Guess

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Hey there! I’m Catherine, a member of the Program in Liberal Medical Education (PLME) class of 2019/2023. I’ll writing for Blogside Manner this year, posting updates about the Program, the grueling application process, my life as a Brown student, and perspectives on being a STEM student at Brown. Hopefully, I can give some insight into the Brown experience, and see some prospective students on campus in the coming years!

During the first year, freshman live in units. Units are designated areas within a dorm, varying in size, that combine an eclectic group of people. I was lucky to have been placed in one of the smallest units where I have made some of my best friends on campus. My unit has become a family of sorts thanks to the guidance of our fearless leader, Tomi Lewis, who is this week’s interviewee. Tomi is a pre-med, half Caribbean (via St. Thomas), half Japanese, first year from San Francisco, California.

What are you think you are concentrating in?

I haven’t decided. I’m thinking either Neuroscience or Health and Human Bio. I know I want to do something bio related. But I think as far as other experiences I have had with biology, I want to focus and do something more specific. That interests me more than doing everything biology encompasses. I have also always have an interest in urban development because I lived in San Francisco. Last semester I took Intro to Urban Studies and found it to be super interesting. So I’m considering double concentrating in science and urban.

Why did you choose your concentration rather than other options?

In school I naturally struggled with spelling, writing, and I was never a fast reader. I gravitated towards math and science. I never had that moment where I thought, “math and science are not for me”. Conversely, I never had a moment where I liked and felt comfortable in a specific humanities.

Sophomore year I did a one day camp at Stanford where I took classes taught by Stanford students and faculty. We had a workshop on cadavers and went into their workspace to look at deceased humans. I got a feel for how medical students look at the human body. That experience was so fascinating, looking at the human body. I always knew I was into science, but I didn’t know specifically which one until my experience at Stanford. Funny enough, sophomore year I took chemistry and realized it was not my forte.

What has been your experience in Science courses at Brown?

I’ve taken Chemistry 0100 (General Chemistry 1), a Geology class, Chemistry 0330 (General Chemistry 2) and Biology 0100. They’ve been pretty good, what I’ve expected from a college science: lecture style, lots of students. As far as male to female teachers – my chemistry teacher is female and does awesome work with nano technology and photons. Overall, it’s been good.

Would you say having a female professor surprised you?

It was refreshing to have a female teacher in chemistry, which is not an easy science whatsoever. All of the chemistry classes I’ve taken at Brown have been led by females. It’s refreshing; it’s nice.

What challenges do you think Women, especially Women of Color, face in STEM?

I think being taken seriously is a big thing. When you walk into a conference room filled with men, the automatic assumption is that the woman does not know as much or is not as be able to explain a finding compared to her male colleagues. Being taken seriously is challenge all women face, especially Women of Color. How people view races and what they are capable of plays a part in those assumptions people make.  

For a women of color to acknowledge the importance of her being a scientist is significant. I’ve never doubted my ability to be a doctor and a scientist, but I know when I grow up it will happen. I will be faced with a lot of criticism and doubt

We need more women, especially Women of Color in science.

What do you think would improve your experience as a science student?

I think having groups and support systems and networks of women and Women of Color to support each other would be really important and impactful. Knowing there are people like us doing amazing things solidifies my confidence, and proves that I too can do well in a field. When you don’t know that someone like you has been successful in a certain field you feel as if you won’t be able to [be successful]. More exposure of anything related to women and Women of Color in science would be great. Discussions about the topic is necessary, before people assume certain things. 

What advice would you give to yourself first semester?

Asking for help and not being afraid to ask peers for help is something I would tell myself even yesterday. In high school there is a stigma of tutoring as a bad thing. Here I’ve learned tutoring is an amazing resource that by no means diminishes my ability to be a successful student.

I would try to not be embarrassed that my peer knows something and I don’t. It can be a vulnerable moment but it is not something to be feared.

Be careful with S/NC (Satisfactory/No Credit, Brown’s version of Pass/Fail) classes. I took S/NC in Urban Studies and a grade for Geology, thinking i couldn’t get an A in urban and it was switched [she got an S with distinction in urban which equates an A]. I doubted my ability to write, so I wouldn’t do that in the future.

Also, I would put myself out there more for clubs and extracurriculars. Just putting my name down on listservs and deciding later. I need to at least have my email down to know about events. And, realizing that every other freshman is probably feeling the same way as you: scared to put themselves out there. People [at Brown] are nice.

PSA from Tomi: When the Ratty has clementines politely borrow an infinite amount for an infinite amount of time.  😉     

*This interview has been edited for clarity and cohesiveness, content has not been      changed.

Questions? Comments? Concerns? Funny Gifs? Rugby Jokes? Cool New Music? Email me at catherine_nacier@brown.edu or comment below! I’ll try to respond as soon as I can!

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