Manic Fringe


The personal blog of the one and only Luc Gendrot. Internet Superhero. Not really.

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An impassioned plea to nobody

Those great thinkers...such tricksters Photo by Hark A Vagrant (click it, you'll be glad)

"I would sweep the floors and scrape all the gum off the desks if you'd just let me into your research lab!"

I considered sending this in an email to a professor, asking about what lab positions were available. I decided against it.

I keep telling myself that I need to just focus on school and learn more, and that I should continue trying to learn outside of class, and somehow people will know I’m bright, knowledgeable, and beyond passionate about science.

"Keep abreast of your field!"

Another thing I say to myself, only half knowing what I even mean, as if it will somehow bring the job offers flying in. (spoiler: It doesn't) And yet I keep on reading: papers, press releases, science blogs and hyped up news articles. Maybe I'm hoping the sheer brilliance emanating from my illuminated brain will attract potential lab positions.

Desperate might be a word I’d use, yes.

This blog, I suppose, is my way to try and differentiate myself from my peers. I like to write, and I love biology, science, and (recently) learning to program. A hipster science blog just seemed a natural progression of those things.

The need to differentiate myself stems from the competitive nature of most universities, it’s not enough to attend and do well at the great school you got into, you have to prove that you can kiss ass, memorize the most, and step on as many backs as possible to get that A+. Not only do I hate this model, I’m also convinced that I’m more intelligent than a lot of my peers despite this model. Too confident you say? Probably. Warranted? Sometimes. You should see some of the kids at my school.

Actually, let me rephrase that altogether. I think I'm "more abreast of my field" than my peers.

Oh sure, some of my bio brethren probably have their lives planned out really well, they know which medical school they're going to, who they'd prefer to marry, what car they’ll own in which town, where they’ll retire, and anything in between here and their end goal is just inconsequential. Undergraduate school is just a stepping stone along the way for many, a tiny cobblestone ready to be stepped on and whisked past. But my own reasons for wanting to study biology are different, they're more amorphous, more ephemeral, and more grounded in the genuine fascination I have in genetics and cell biology, and the sincere wish I have to learn more, to become an expert in my field, and to share my experiences and expertise with the world. Perhaps my reasons are more grounded in selfishness as well, I have yet to determine that.

Growing up I was inundated with images of the great thinkers, innovators, and researchers who have shaped the world around them with their love and appreciation for their area of study. Nikola Tesla, Benjamin Franklin, Rosalind Franklin, Watson, Crick, Koch, Lamark, Mendel, the list goes on. The images of these incredible minds are so romanticized-history having distilled them to only their most admirable of traits-that I've grown up thinking that the pursuit of knowledge is a fundamental right, something that I could I always thought that my quest to conquer biology would be effortless. The image in my mind that represented my quest for learning was one of me sitting in a blank white room, a cup of coffee on the desk in front of me, silently steaming alongside the dozens of academic research papers, reference documents, and of course my own notes strewn everywhere. That image is, frankly, all I want in life.

I guess I made the mistake that every upper middle class white kid must make. I assumed that everything would be handed to me, no questions asked, as it has been for my entire adolescent life.

I assumed that my noble pursuit of knowledge would lead me down the correct path, and in my blindness mistakenly thought that path would be free of brambles. Nothing in my adolescence prepared me for the simple fact that I have to pay the bills somehow, and reading that latest paper on gut flora composition and Alzheimer's risk isn't going to do that.

The romantic in me rails against the unfairness of a system that would allow for someone in whom the the fires of scientific inquiry burn so brightly to fall by the wayside as I feel I have. But then the pragmatist in me chimes in (sounding a bit too much like my father).

“Stay the course! If you want to learn as badly as you say you do, then stop whining and work within the system! Do what it takes!"

And I know that my inner pragmatist is right, as he often is (much to my chagrin). I know that I can sit in my room typing furiously to write up this blog post, hoping that my sympathetic wailing to the faceless on the internet, like the work of those great thinkers before me, can shape the world around me.

I also know that to do that would extinguish any chance I have left of actually pursuing my interests.

God dammit growing up sucks.

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