Why #anyonecandobiology and what it takes to marvel at the biology around us
By the time Dr. Vivekand Pandey Vimal completed his Ph.D, he began to lose his sense of wonder at a seemingly regimented world. To rediscover his love of biology, he embarked on an exciting journey of entomological exploration. "To open a new dimension of analysis, I decided to just look at insects, which I used to find disgusting. In no time, my backyard was a whole new universe of exploration."
The rigor of academic study fast intrudes into the personal and social lives of any biological science student. Disillusionment, burn out, and a sense of jadedness or cynicism is common, but perhaps potentially avoidable.
The fear of poor performance on an assignment, negative feedback, and increasing responsibilities is difficult to negotiate for any student. Putting everything in perspective counts.
In today's academic climate, there is no rosy-colored glasses solution. We can all get into catastrophic thinking mode--"If I get a bad grade on this test, I'll do poorly in the class, and my GPA will drop, and I won't get into my dream school, and I will not get a good job, and I'll live in a cardboard box!" Overwhelmed, there is little we can do without much wake. Taking a breath, stepping back, and recognizing our snow-balling thoughts can bring us back to a calm, focused space and recognize that in the grand scheme of things, your education is what you make it. No failure is a failure if you learn from it. No growth occurs in the comfort zone.
One way of stepping back is active observation of the world around you. Before an exam, or presentation, take a walk in the woods. After a standardized exam, lose yourself in a forest instead of any negative self-talk-- "what if No.#34 was B and not C" is not only not productive, but harmful and doesn't celebrate the fact that No.#1-33 may be correct. Returning to nature is a way of grounding yourself. It may feel forced at first to remind yourself to notice the edges of leaves, the way the light hits a branch, the ant on the bark, or gentleness of a carpet of moss. But with time, these acute observation skills sharpen, and returning to nature becomes a meditation. We begin to see our thoughts, actions, and achievements as something much larger, and we begin to forget to sweat the small stuff.
"We are all connected, through our social bonds, through the ecosystem and through the cycles of energy transfer. I think humanity's salvation will be when we stop thinking of ourselves as only individuals and see ourselves as part of the larger continuum of life and death. The environment is our identity. " - Vivek Vimal, Ph.D.
In this way, connecting with our environment allows us to disconnect from the always "on" modern day. It helps to break up the regimentation of repetition, of the quotidian. "Anyone can do biology no matter what their job or situation. It only requires that you don't take for granted the world around you and examine and explore nature around you," says Dr. Vimal, who eventually hopes to teach a class on self-identity and the local environment.
To prepare for a career in biology while in high school, Dr. Vimal advises the following.
On finding the right path:
"If you have no other resources, at least take all courses relevant to biology. AP bio will help you but if you want to major in science and go to a 4 year school, but you will also have to take all the other sciences. I also encourage learning how to computer program. It is becoming a very important skill to have in biological research."
On what really matters:
"I think even more important, in many ways, is developing a deep love for biology. This is important because it will sustain you throughout the difficult days of studying just for the sake of grades. The love of biology can be created by being curious about the world around you and then investigating it further. For example, I love searching for insects in my backyard and then searching the internet about their life journeys and role in the ecosystem. If you have more resources, try working on some bio-related projects over the summer that can build your portfolio. You can also apply for grants and scholarships to participate in summer research programs. You can do some pretty deep stuff with cheap things like yeast. Ask your bio teacher, anyone at Tutoring Made Personal, or feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org."