Why are you majoring in your chosen field of science, and what are your career goals?I’ve always liked science. As a kid, I wanted to be an archaeologists and dig up Tyrannosaurs bones. Then I wanted to design space ships and work in NASA. Then I wanted to be a scientist and invent new kinds of medicine. I took a lot of science courses in high school, so when I got to college I decided to take different classes. I took a political science course, Chinese and Greek mythology. But in the end I came back to science. In my sophomore year, I declared my major to be the Biological Sciences.

Why biology? I love biology because I love life. And biology is the study of life. Almost everything is related to biology – chemistry, physics, economics, psychology, engineering, even now computer science. There is so much interdisciplinary action happening in biology and its exciting to learn about. I’m well suited to learn biology. I have a great memory. I’m not as much of a problem solver the way chemists, physicists and engineers are, but I have a pretty strong capacity to store knowledge and integrate into understanding of the world.

Many people at my school major in the Biological Sciences to prepare themselves for a career in medicine. Althought my parents would also like me to choose that route, I am not taking it. Nor am I going to climb the ivory tower and become an academic scientist, or even a corporate one. No, I plan to take my biology degree into another field: Philanthropy.

Through my academic journeys I have learned a great deal about how the world is and how it works. And there two things about this world that have struck me very deeply. One is that all of humanity is closely related to one another. There is very little genetically that separates me from a man in India or Spain or Kenya. We are all brothers and sisters.

The second is that there is a great separation in this world between those who have and those who do not. The poverty that ails billions of people across the globe is something I cannot ignore. One statistic that is particularly painful to me – I keep it taped to my wall – every day 29,000 children under the age of 5 die due to malnutrition and preventable diseases. There are few things more painful than losing a child. I have an 8 year old sister and I could not imagine losing her. But over 10 million mothers every year have to face this agony.

I plan to take what I’ve learned in biology to foundations and non-profits that work to make this world a better place. I am incredibly fortunate to be where I am – a student-athlete at a top tier institution. In biology we learn that genetics account for at least 50% of intelligence, and of course I had no choice over who my parents were. And neither did the young girl  in South Africa who was orphaned by her HIV positive mother. What makes her less deserving of a decent life than me?

Beyond philanthropy, there are many issues that struggles that humanity face – energy shortages, global warming, pandemics. I would like to say I did the best I could to ensure the long-term survival and flourishing of humanity. I plan to get a philanthropy fellowship after graduation. Eventually I imagine I would need to get a graduate degree – perhaps in public health or international development.  One of the core precepts of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is: to those whom much has been, much is expected. Compared to the billion people who live on a dollar a day, I have been given so much. And I plan to hold up my end of the bargain.

How will a scholarship from StraightForward Media help you achieve your educational and professional goals? 

As a student at Stanford, I am fortunate to take classes with some of the greatest minds, train with some of the greatest athletes, and hang out with some of the greatest friends I’ve ever known. However, all this comes with a great big price tag.
Both my parents work two jobs in order to pay for my schooling without putting me into too much debt. I am a student-athlete who spends over 20 hours a week training, and I have little time or energy for a job. A StraightForward Media scholarship would  help pay for books. Textbook prices have risen even during my time in college and a little money to pay for them would be appreciated. I also sometimes contact people in organizations I would like to work in and ask them to lunch. StraightForward Media scholarship would allow me to pick up the check for more people and better figure out how I can make the best use of my talents and abilities.

The Future of Science in America

This is an article I had originally written for a Seed Magazine science writing competition, but I missed the deadline.  Well, turns out it was almost done.  So I just wrapped it up and I’m putting it out here.

Science is more important in our lives than ever before. We use produces created from scientific discoveries every day. And scientific issues are always in the news. Our economy is driven largely by scientific businesses: biotech, information technology, energy. The rate of scientific development in America, and the world, has rocketed. The last few decades have seen unprecedented numbers of scientific and technological advances, and there is no sign it will be slowing down any time soon.

However, the future also shows some ominous signs. As a leader of scientific innovation, America is seeing great competition from India and China. Their children are more adept in math and science than ours (although that in itself is not difficult to achieve), and they graduate more PhDs in science and engineering than we do. Finally, the future will hold greate challenges, many of them created by the scientific and technological advances of the last century. Climate change, energy shortage, epidemics, terrorism. It is clear that science in all its forms will be critical to America’s future.

It seems to me that many of the troubles the scientific community faces (shortage of money, people, respect) could be solved through a simple, yet startling and possibly controversial idea.

We (the American public) need to treat science more like the military.

Now before you say anything, hear me out. Here’s why science needs to be treated more like the military. Read the first sentence of each of these next paragraphs normally, then read them again and substitute “the military” for “science”.

Serving in the military is akin to serving your country. We have established that science will be critical to America’s future. People need to understand that scientists aren’t simply conducting experiments to answer isoteric questions about the universe, (although some do), but they are doing work that is helping this country grow stronger. Don’t you think that that alone would give scientists much more respect?

You are not in the military forever. Science should also not be seen as a be all end all as a career. Many people have worked years as a scientists and then moved onto other fields: teaching comes to mind, but also business, writing and law or politics. Science should be seen as something that you can dedicate a few years to or a few decades to.

The military gives you skills for life. In the same way, people have to see that working in sciences gives you incredible skills – self-discipline, meticulousness, creativity, the ability to synthesize ideas, work in teams and work under pressure. These skills can translate over to many other fields. Time spent in science is worth spending.

The military can show you the world. Even if you don’t travel anywhere, science can show people a whole new world that is right under their eyes, or in every part of their lives. Science illuminates and reveals the mysteries of the universe.

Do you see where this is going? I think that science needs to be taken more seriously and made more accessible, the way the military is. Now how are we going to do this? My three step program.

1) A massive public awareness campaign. This is going to cost a good amount of money, but I think it is worth it. I’m talking splashy, sexy, bold television spots, celebrity endorsements, billboards, weblogs, bracelets, the whole 9 yards. This is a total change in the perception of science so it needs to really get out there.  The military is pretty good at this.  (Army of One.  Navy – accelerate your life.  The few, the proud, the Marines).

2) A change in the way we train and deploy scientists. This requires coordination between education, government and businesses. I see young people enrolling in a Science Corps boot camp, serving time (maybe a 2 year commitment at a lab on a certain assignment) and they’d be on the way to a PhD.  They could also go down to Reserve, where they could be called to duty for a few weeks out of a year.

3) Get more scientists and Science Corps members into government, so that our country will be lead by people who understand what is going on.  As we have established, science is going to become more advanced and become more interconnected with society.  Policy makers need to have a grip on the issues.  Also, the Science Corps program will fail without having members in government positions.  Think about how many politicians have military backgrounds. With science-educated leaders in place, America will be in a better position to lead the world.  Hopefully in a safe and ethical manner.

The Paradox of the Human Body

The paradox of the human body is that we are such powerful, yet such frail creatures.

Our bodies are capable of incredible feats of strength, flexibility, speed, endurance and power. Just think of olympic weightlifting, contorsionists, sprinters, Lance Armstrong, and karate masters breaking concrete. The things we can do with our bodies should we train ourselves for them, are simply amazing.

At the same time, we are truly frail and sometimes pathetics creatures, especially when you compare us to other animals. We have no exoskeleton, we have no claws or sharp teeth. The same bones that can break concrete when properly applied, can also snap from a simple fall.

What this all comes down to is that we need to respect our bodies. It is often called a machine, a machine that needs proper tuning and oiling to run well. The best part of the human body is that, unlike a car, when you hurt yourself, time can heal the injury. Try doing that with your dented fender.

I guess I’m thinking about this topic because as I get older, I’m facing up to a lot more injuries, even as I increase my ability to perform skills. My back hurts, my shoulder is bothering me. I’m just trying to stay healthy for 2 more years.

The Takeaway: Respect your body, and it will do great things.