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PHD

Let’s talk about catalysis, shall we? And, before you stop reading, I’m not eluding back to the biochemistry chapter I’ve spent the past five or six hours reading and taking notes over titled “Properties of Enzymes” (because as you and I are well aware of, the most important characteristics of these little guys is that they speed up reactions that would be way too slow to be beneficial…in other words, they’re catalysts.). No, I will spare you the details and instead talk about catalysis in light of the quote that I cut out of a magazine ad my freshman year and now have hanging on the bulletin board in front of my desk in my dorm:

“What if we took the time to rethink things? Forcing ourselves to look at how things are and imagining what they could be. Not waiting for change, but being the catalyst.”

When I made the Big Change (that is, change of my major), I did so thinking I was going to become a biochemist. Seriously! After four weeks of being an Official Biology Major, however, I know now that I definitely don’t like biochemistry enough to be a biochemist (organic chem. is way better…). I thought I would enjoy learning about the chemistry of life, but honestly, I kind of really dislike it. A lot. And that really kind of worries me. A lot. So if I don’t want to be a biochemist, then, what do I want to be? This is where the above quote comes in: I may not know exactly what I plan to get my PhD in yet, but there’s one thing I do know, and that’s the fact that when I grow up, I want to be a catalyst.

As the weeks go on, I find myself drifting farther and farther away from who I was prior to the Big Change. My case in point: I’m about to read a book on GMO’s and how maybe they are in fact what the world needs. Me, the girl who praises the virtues of organic food, eats pretty much only organic food…thinking that GMO’s aren’t so big and bad as we make them sound (DISCLAIMER: I’M STILL UNSURE OF MY FEELINGS TOWARDS GENETIC MODIFICATION, AS I AM STILL LEARNING ABOUT IT.)? This may be the reason why I’m getting so upset: I’m worried that, as a scientist, that all of my beliefs and my goals are going to come crashing down. I’m so passionate about organic agriculture, and if there’s one thing that really gets me upset, it’s not GMO’s, but rather, the use of toxic pesticides. But there are so many critics of organic! How can I pursue a career in something that many people believe is not feasible on a large scale? Another thing that gets me upset: chemicals in processed foods and cosmetics and tons of other things we don’t think twice about! How can I prove to people that maybe we should be worried about these things? Can I do it? And if I can, what degree will give me the credentials to best stand up for what I believe in and prove that there is a science behind it?

…Or, as I’ve been spending sleepless nights wondering, will I simply be doomed to a career doing something that totally goes against what I believe in for the sake of getting a job? For the sake of having something secure? I can’t let that happen!

I’m going to finish this blog post with another quote, courtesy of Steve Jobs (he has some of the best quotes, I’m telling you!). I think he described an effective catalyst the best: “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Here’s to having the courage to be a catalyst, no matter how much activation energy the reaction might take.

-Carly

“Sleeping Lessons” by The Shins

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