May 9th, 2011. 3:02:27 PM
Disbelief: My state of mind as I clicked on the awaited email titled Beckman Scholars Program Award.
Same day. 3:02:28 PM
One yelp-jump-in-the-air-call-your-mother-butterflies-fluttering-under-your-skin kind of Joy.
It amazes me that one single opportunity in college can lead to another and another and before you realize where you have been your career is underway. Through the SIMS program as a pre-freshman I was introduced to research and met the educators at CNSI. Through the mentorship of these individuals at CNSI, the EUREKA! Internship became a reality. And finally, after two years of dedicated research and diligent study, these sought-after experiences defined me as a qualified applicant for a nationwide scholarship program.
I am so grateful for the privilege of attending an educational institution at which success is within my reach, but I am even more appreciative that UCSB does not do the reaching for me. What I value most about UCSB is that it is the kind of school where you must first earn the opportunities that you are given. There aren’t any handouts around here. I think I like that the most. – Aside from the ocean of course.
This past summer the Beckman Scholarship enabled me to stay at UCSB to work full time in the research lab. I was putting in forty-plus hours a week and began to really get a feeling for the life of a scientist. It was a such a unique opportunity as an undergrad to focus solely on research without the stress of classes.
So far the most rewarding advantage of the Beckman Scholarship has been the opportunity to travel to different research conferences. The foundation provided the funding to attend the 2011 Beckman Scholars and Beckman Young Investigators Symposium at UC Irvine in August and I will have the chance to present my own research at the symposium next year. This past fall was a busy quarter of poster editing and printing for the SACNAS Conference in October, CNSI’s 10 year review at UCLA, and the Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.
The first three conference experiences were intimate affairs at which students were given ample time and opportunity to meet one another, talk with more experienced scientists, network with admissions directors at other universities, and become introduced to a handful of recent research endeavors. However, at the Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting in D.C., the sheer hugeness of the event – 32,357 in attendance at a giant convention center at the heart of the nation’s capital – completely redefined a scientific conference for me. I was astonished by the breadth of topics covered by mini-symposiums, special lectures, and a open hall (equivalent to at least six UCSB Thunderdomes) absolutely full of posters. There were so many different talks going on simultaneously that it was difficult to chose which ones to attend! However, I found that my favorite approach was to go through the schedule and pick the talks that sounded the most interesting – regardless of their relevance to my project – and see what there was to learn.
I have to say that last quarter was absolutely the busiest I have ever been. Preparing for a presentation at a conference first of all takes a lot of thought and time, and then attending the conferences usually meant missing classes. Missing lectures and a few midterms made getting those top grades even more difficult, but I think that in the long run, the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to present your research to well-known scientists in your field far is more than worth the price of a few sleepless nights of catching up.