Mathematical Biology and Making Memories

What do you want people to know about you most of all? What is most quintessentially you?

I guess, I would at least hope, the thing that people remember me by is how much I care for people and how I show that care. A few weeks ago, my housemates and I were talking about love languages, and I took this online test and it told me that my love language is quality time and I think that’s very accurate for me. Outside of relationships too, like friendships. I really value just spending time with people, even if it’s just getting coffee with someone once a week, I think that’s how I show people I care about them. I at least hope that I’m successful in that, even if we’re not best friends that spend every day together, just showing friends that I care about them and they matter to me.  

Do you think that’s the reason you joined Humans? What motivated you to join?

I joined as a sophomore, so I had a year on campus, just following the page. I loved it, and always loved Humans of New York from the beginning too. And I think I just applied because I wanted to meet people that I wouldn’t have otherwise met, I think that’s something that’s cool about Humans is that you just start conversations with people and see where it goes, and having a reason to do that, and not just going up to someone randomly and being like, “Hey, I wanna be your friend!” This campus is small , but I’m graduating and I still see faces around campus that I don’t recognize, so I think I was just hoping to join Humans, meet people, and find more familiar faces, start more conversations….

Do you have an interview that sticks out to you the most?

I interviewed my friend Kylie in the middle of last semester. I interviewed her about her haircut, because I had known her last year, and then hadn’t seen her in a few months over the summer and when she came back to school, she had a pixie cut, which was very different for her. So I asked her about that and she had a very empowering story behind it, because her boyfriend at the time, when she brought up that she wanted to get her haircut, he said, “No you won’t look good, I won’t find you attractive anymore if you cut your hair.” She broke up with him, and said I’m gonna cut my hair and I’ll still be beautiful. So she cut her hair and she rocks it, so I think that was an empowering story that you cant let others dictate your life or your decisions, and you have to honestly just do whatever makes you happiest and other people can just deal with that.

So that kinda leads me to ask you about your plans after college. I remember, when you interviewed me as an applicant to Humans, and you said you studied mathematical biology or something like that, and I was like “what the heck is that?” And now you’re going to Harvard, for mathematical biology?

Computational biology, yeah, very similar.

What is that? What brought you to that? How does that create a part of your identity?

I’ve always been really interested in science and math, and I got here, and I didn’t want to do pre-med, because I didn’t think being doctor was what I wanted to do, but I still wanted to do something where I felt like I could help people using my science and math background. And I found the mathematical biology major, and it’s kinda a weird major because it’s hidden. I’m technically an interdisciplinary studies major with a concentration in CAMS, with a concentration in mathematical biology so it’s several layers deep. I’m really interested in personalized medicine where you sequence someone’s DNA, because people respond differently to drugs and treatments, and the thought is that it’s just because of our DNA. So, the whole idea behind personalized medicine is that if you can see someone’s entire genome, you’ll be able to find the specific parts that would respond to the treatment, so you can figure out which treatment would be best so you don’t have to try a bunch of different treatments to find what’s best and by then, the patient may be in a worst state then they were to begin with because all this time has passed and they haven’t even gotten a treatment that’s worked. So that’s what I’m gonna be involved in for the next two years at Harvard and probably what I’m gonna write my thesis on, which is crazy to think about. I think my whole goal in life is to be able to help people and I don’t wanna be just stuck in a lab forever, I wanna have some sort of connection with people, so going into personalized medicine I would get to help people, I would see the change that I’m making with the patients that I see while still doing research and having a foot in both fields.

Was there ever a time in your college career where you were like why do I know I wanna do this?

The reason that I decided to do personalized medicine over straight research happened last summer. I had this internship that I was super excited about and it was great in the end. I was doing research and I was in a room with no windows with three other people every day all summer. It was great and I learned a ton, but I really craved more human connection. I think that was a tough time for me, because I was like “Wow, I don’t enjoy this, what am I doing with my life? I’ve spent the last 21 years studying this topic that now, I find kind of boring.” I think I just had to revisit my goals, and rethink what I wanted to do, because up until then I just thought I would do into research.

Are you excited for Boston? Have you ever been to Boston?

I’ve been to Boston a few times. I’m so excited.

I feel like that’s very different from Oregon?

Portland, yeah. It’s different. I was considering moving to New York City after this, I was given a job there, so I was kinda set on going there, which is even more different than Boston. So now going to Boston doesn’t seem like too crazy of a step. There’s so many schools there, so the average age is pretty young. I’ve met a couple people from my program and the school so far, and they seem so great and so passionate about what they do. They are so intelligent and the professors and the researchers there are amazing, so I’m very excited. It’s gonna be a fun two years, it’s gonna be a lot of work, but fun.

Tell me about your best friends from William & Mary.

They are all my housemates, I live in a house with 8 other girls, 7 of us are Kappa Deltas, 2 of them are not. I kinda went through a phase my junior year, because I had a lot of friends who were graduating. All of my friends were seniors, they were going to be leaving, I didn’t know what to do. I signed on to live in this house with all of them, it has been just amazing, we’ve all gotten so close. I wasn’t close to them before, but now we spend so much time together, both inside the house and out of the house. We’re going strawberry picking next week, we took grad photos together. We took some pictures on our couch because that’s where we hang out all the time, even though it’s a three-person couch. We just kinda squeeze in and spend all our nights there, and mornings, I was on that couch for like 6 hours today. I went into this year where I thought I wasn’t gonna get super close with them, and my house was just gonna be somewhere I slept, but it’s truly become my home and being able to live with friends that I absolutely adore and want to spend all my time with has been life-chaining. I’ve made lifelong friends in this year.

What is it about them that you’re so drawn to? How do you admire them?

I live with 8 different girls and they’re all different, but also similar in so many ways. They’re all very hardworking and very passionate about what they do and choose to get involved with. Like Ariel, I’ve gotten super close with, she’s just so driven and so caring and kind. She has so many friends throughout all these nooks and crannies of campus, which is reflective of her personality, she’s just so friendly and kind to anyone she meets that literally, anyone she talks to will become her best friend. I was at Cheese Shop with her and a couple other housemates a few days ago, and she just started chatting with a stranger and we just chatted with them for 10 minutes while we waited for our sandwiches, and that’s so reflective of her personality because she can just talk to anyone and makes them feel heard and valuable. That’s Ariel, and then there’s Beth, who’s just amazing. She’s known her life that she wants to be a teacher and she works so hard towards that goal, and she’s so passionate about equal pay and higher wages for teachers and is really fighting for that cause, and it’s cool to see that in her. I could just go on and on, and it’s really sad that we’re all gonna be in such different places next year.

Does it feel weird to be a real adult now? Going out into the world? Do you even feel like an adult?

Compared to freshman year, I definitely feel like I have gained so much more knowledge and independence and everything, but I still don’t feel like a total adult. My parents still have to help me with my taxes, I FaceTime my mom all the time when I’m cooking, or I’ll FaceTime my dad and have him help me with my math homework sometimes. I’m not fully there yet, but I don’t know if I want to be. I don’t wanna be a full-blown adult yet in my life, I just wanna have fun. I think it’s important to have responsibilities and do all that boring stuff, but still have fun, and hang out with your friends at midnight when you should be asleep…

I went through a really rough phase in sophomore year when I was just so stressed about school and everything happening in my life. It really took a toll on me, and even my physical health. I started getting cold sores, and they were so painful and I got them just because I was so stressed. That really taught me a valuable lesson, that yes, grades are important, but to a degree. I’ve gotten into Harvard and I have four or five C’s on my transcript. It’s important to a degree, but at some point, you have to realize that grades are not everything. And if you do wanna go to grad school, that’s awesome, but they look at more than just your GPA. It’s not something you should kill yourself over, or get cold sores over. It’s important to hang out with friends and have that quality time. Don’t hole yourself up in Swem seven days a week to get an A in a class, when you could just get a B and be happy.

To that point, is there anything about William & Mary that you would want to change or help improve?

I definitely would want to change the stress culture here. During my four years, I’ve definitely seen it get better, because it’s something that’s talked about more now. People say don’t spend the night in Swem during finals, they say spend time with your friends, take time to get an actual meal, things like that. I still think that there’s work to be done. People here are so talented and driven, and I think people just feed off of each other. People think “I wanna be more like this person, or this person, and that means I have to study more hours for this test,” and I think it’s important to realize you are your own person. It’s okay to be stressed, that ‘something that’s gonna happen many times, but it doesn’t have to be competitive. Sometimes people are like “I studied this many hours for this test, hahaha, I’m better than you,” and that’s just not how it works.

If you were to give a One Last Thing Speech, what would you say? What would your theme be?

I guess the whole thing of One Last Thing is to give advice to people, so I guess I would say just show people that you care. Show people that they matter and they are valuable in your life. Because it really can change someone’s outlook to know that someone cares about them. Even something as small as sitting with someone in Swem and studying with them, can at least lift someone’s spirit for the day, because at least they’ve seen a friendly face.

How were you able to figure that out? Were you able to find that perspective through experiences or do you think that mentality has always been within you?

I think it’s always been a part of what I try to do, but especially in sophomore year, when I was having such a tough time, it really meant a lot to me when my friends reached out and checked in and made me eat dinner with them. When I looked back on sophomore year, it was something that really changed my outlook, because I was so stressed about everything happening in my life at that point. So having people who cared about me and who showed me they cared about me really changed everything for me. So now I try to pay it back and do it for others.  

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