07 November 2014

How did I get here? Learning to love research.

I grew up in southern Indiana, in an area stuck mid-way between small town and big city (Evansville). I thought biology and music were both pretty cool in high school. I applied to colleges in a haphazard way, auditioning on flute for some schools, and checking out biology programs at others. I eventually ended up at Western Kentucky University, mostly because of the generous academic scholarship they offered me and the WKU Forensics (Speech and Debate) team. I had competed in high school, and had lots of friends who were also on the team, so it seemed like fun thing to do. After spending so much time my first semester practicing, traveling, and competing for speech, I declared my major in my second semester as something like "corporate and organizational communications," although I really lacked an understanding of what a job in such a field would entail. I stuck with a minor in biology, since I'd already taken a semester of introductory classes. My reasoning for this adjustment was that, although biology was interesting, I didn't want to be a doctor. Moreover, I literally couldn't imagine spending years of my life working on the same biological research question. 

That spring, I went to a departmental seminar for biology because I thought it sounded interesting. My professor for introductory biology, Larry Alice, saw me there and suggested I start working for him doing research. Not one to balk at offered opportunities, I relented and started learning how to sequence DNA to determine the evolutionary relationships among species of grass. It only took a semester of actually performing research to realize how gratifying it can be. I switched my major to biology within a few months, this time keeping communications (and also history) as minors.

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