Blog

40/ It’s been a while

I last posted about my experience with school at the end of fall semester. Then a few things happened. And suddenly, spring semester is almost gone!


39/ Spring “Break”

Spring Break 2014 has just come and passed. While this is a time for most undergrads to get away from campus, it’s a time for grad students like me to stick around and get work done. This is what it looks like.


38/ The wolves that got me writing

When I began thinking about writing, I had a dream that I could someday reach out to the world and educate them with my writing. Alas, the task to reach out to others, create an entertaining, informative, and educating piece of work seemed to me to be a formidable task. I took a step back, breathed, and realized I had to start somewhere smaller, so I signed up for a class called “Writing on Issues of Science and Technology.”


37/ How I prepared for the MCAT in only a month

The MCAT is a rite of passage to medical school. Everyone takes it. It is a formidable barrier that many spend months or even years preparing to overcome. I prepared for a month.


36/ Grades – Will they make or break you?

“How important are grades for med school? Can other things make up for not achieving super high grades? I read that you got in with a 3.6 (I thought getting in required gpas near 4.0); what else made you a strong applicant? Not trying to sound rude or anything :)”


35/ A year in the life

The new year is often a time of reflection on the previous year and planning for the year to come. As I look back on 2013, it seems to be a lot of endings and new beginnings. Sure there was some bad, but there was also good – life is more exciting with both extremes after all. Here’s some of my experiences from the past year.


34/ My third and final rotation

To put it simply, my third rotation was different.


33/ Reflections from my second lab rotation

As I’ve gone through my lab rotations, my research interests have also shifted in a somewhat serendipitous manner.


32/ I guess this is growing up

As Voltaire said, “Uncertainty is an uncomfortable position,” and the transition to medical school or grad school (or both!) often comes with much uncertainty.


31/ The first rotation is the hardest

They say your first lab rotation in graduate school is the hardest – you’re adjusting from undergraduate to graduate student, you’re adjusting to potentially a new school and a new state, you’re adjusting to new people, and you’re adjusting to new research and a new lab.


30/ Picking a thesis lab is a lot like dating

The lab where you do your graduate school thesis work is where you will be spending about 5 years of your life (or longer depending on your project, sometimes shorter). This experience will be essential to prepare you for your career and so where you do your thesis really has implications for the rest of your life.


29/ My Nerdy Halloween Costumes

If you’re anything like me, Halloween is just another time to shout to the world, “Hey! I’m a nerd!”


28/ The Path From High School to Medical School

Everyone takes a different path to medical school, but there is a general guideline to follow to meet medical school requirements. Here, I wish to give you an outline of how to go from high school to medical school and to explain common terms that will surely soon become part of your lingo if they aren’t already.


27/ Adderall abuse in college

How do you feel about adderall abuse in college? I don’t want to take it but I feel as if I won’t do well in college if I don’t take it….


26/ Getting research experience as an undergraduate/post-bacc student

Research is essential to advance our knowledge of the human body and to develop improved ways of treating diseases. So how do you actually go about getting involved in a research laboratory?


25/ Undergraduate curriculum

Would schools like it more if I majored in X or Y? Is it true that medical schools favor people who major in X? What classes should I take as a pre-med to make me best fit for medical school? I see these questions all the time.


24/ Cribs – MD/PhD Student Edition

Sup y’all! Welcome to the MD/PhD student edition of cribs featuring yours truly! Thought I’d give you a tour of my new apartment here at UIUC so you can get a feel of the place where I will likely spend endless hours studying in the next year.


23/ Making the move

This past weekend, I loaded up all of my stuff into a car, truck, and trailer back home in Minnesota and moved it all into my new apartment in Champaign, Illinois, just blocks from campus where I’ll be starting school in just a couple weeks!


22/ Farewell to Fairview

It is now time to say goodbye to this hospital I know so well. Sure, it may be pretty weird to lament leaving some buildings and an organization, but within it lies hundreds of relationships and memories be them brief or enduring.


21/ My next eight years

Answers to many FAQs: Where are you going to school? How long are you going to be in school? How is the program structured? How much does it cost? What are you getting your PhD in? What are lab rotations? How big is your class size? What comes after all of this? How did you get in? Why the heck are you doing all of this?!


20/ Biographical sketch

I was raised in a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota by a father who is an imaging engineer in the radiation oncology department of the University of Minnesota Medical Center (UMMC) and a mother who stayed at home with me until I began elementary school when she became a self-employed house cleaner.


19/ My last summer

So what to do with the last summer free from most responsibility and worries of my life? Surely, I must make the most of it.


18/ College graduation: An educational privilege and charge

Just 6.7% of the world has a college degree. Many more were likely accepted to college and didn’t finish and even more than that want to go to college but don’t have the capability.


17/ Lend a hand? Happily.

Research has shown that those with a greater interest in helping others rate themselves as more happy. It is believed that such acts may foster a charitable perception of others and one’s community, an increased sense of cooperation and interdependence, and an awareness of one’s good fortune.


16/ A growing problem

I could barely recognize my grandmother’s frail body as she lay on a hospital bed in the room that was once her dining room. She asked what the weather was like outside. Fighting back tears, I told her it was a nice sunny day and there were robins on the bird feeders that she liked to watch on her deck.


15/ Isle Royale’s drama of survival

Surviving as a lone wolf is difficult, but for Isabelle, the winter of 2013 posed a greater challenge. Targeted by another female and her two companions, her life was in danger as they attacked with the intensity used to take down a full size moose, jaws clenching hard aiming to rip muscle from bone.


14/ Minnesota, Hail To Thee

Each year, the graduates and leaders in the University of Minnesota Marching Band get to write a letter to their peers as a way to end the season. I’m sharing mine from this year so that others can appreciate how meaningful of an experience I have had the fortune to experience in college.


13/ An ex-marine’s perspective on life

My grandfather, an ex-marine, told me a story today. He said that back in World War II when he was stationed in Hawaii, good friends that he’d spend all of his days with would go up in the air to log experience hours in planes, and sometimes an accident would happen and in a matter of minutes they were gone.


12/ Advice for pre-pharmacy students

“You mentioned that you wanted to go to pharmacy school initially, why? What advice could you give to pre-pharm students? What made you change your mind?”


11/ Can you have good grades, a social life, AND sleep?

Prioritizing grades and a social life, it is generally known that the college years are those of likely little sleep, or at least little sleep when it is most appropriate – staying up late to finish school work just to have class early the next day. We use our time to master knowledge for our classes, but we forget to master the most important lesson – how to sleep effectively.


10/ How to write your personal statement

Writing your personal statement? Here’s what you need to do.


9/ “I’m sorry for your loss”

I like to tell myself that I knew from the day that she was diagnosed that we would have to face this day, to say goodbye, sooner than I had hoped. It is my way of coping, to remind myself that on the bright side, we knew it was coming so we were able to at least say our goodbyes. This isn’t just my loss – they knew her too – it is their loss as well. It is the world’s loss.


8/ Fighting demons

What if someone had helped him? What if he had made the conscious decision to fight his addiction? Why did his abuse of drugs start? Why did his rehab not work? Why did his life have to end at such a young age? What can I do to help others so they do not succumb to this same fate? Such questions and more continue to race through my head.


7/ I may not be religious, but I am spiritual

No matter how each of us rationalizes our existence whether belonging to a certain religion or not, we have a common goal to search for meaning in our lives though we may not consciously realize it. It is this that unites us regardless of which story we believe is true.


6/ If I could do it again

I wrote. Then I rewrote. Then I started over and rewrote again. Soon, the words began to blur together. I couldn’t make sense what I had covered in which piece. I read my work out loud to have a better idea of how it flowed but even still that lost its meaning. I made leaps of logic that I weren’t aware of because it was my own life and my hopes and wishes that I was covering. I was writing medical school personal statements.


A picture of a round green door with round windows on either side embedded into the side of a hill. Flowers grow on either side of the door.

5/ The difference a year makes

A year ago, I thought I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I had it all planned out. For years I knew what I wanted was to get my PhD, become a professor of pharmacology, and research the design of anticancer drugs. It was straightforward and it is what I had prepared for years to do. Then I discovered the Medical Scientist Training Program and was swept off to somewhere I never thought I would be.


A chemistry lab countertop covered with glassware of various shapes and sizes.

4/ When I synthesize my molecule

When I synthesize my standard molecule in a reaction consisting of a drug, guanine, and cysteine for biological analysis in my lab, I see it not just as organic chemistry but also as a reaction in the body. It is a simplified biological system.


A coffee cup with a snowman on it in front of a tablet open to a paper with a diagram of immune cell function.

3/ AMCAS MD Personal Statement

When applying to medical school, whether you’re applying to MD or MD/PhD, you will have to write a personal statement regarding your reasons for pursuing a career in medicine. This statement, with a limit of 5,300 characters, is a great opportunity to let your passion shine through and complement your GPA, MCAT score, and extracurriculars to convince admission committees that you would be an excellent addition to their program. As an example, here’s my MD personal statement.


Library shelves filled with books of many different colors.

2/ AMCAS MD/PhD Personal Statement

For those applying to MD/PhD programs, you will have to complement your MD personal statement with a MD/PhD statement and a research statement. The MD/PhD statement has a 3,600 character limit and serves to strengthen your argument why you want to do both MD and PhD. As an example, here is my MD/PhD personal statement.


A tissue culture hood filled with flasks of media, plates with cells, and pipettes.

1/ AMCAS Research Personal Statement

For those applying to MD/PhD programs, you will have to complement your MD personal statement with a MD/PhD statement and a research statement. The research statement has a 10,000 character limit and serves to strengthen your argument why you want to do research and why you would be a good researcher. As an example, here is my research personal statement.