Friday, May 6, 2016

The cheesiest reflection in 20.109 history

So I just accidentally stumbled upon the absolute best 20.109 picture. 

Next semester's first-day-of-class "what is BE" picture?

I will admit, going into the semester, I was most skeptical of this class. I was like, “Fundamentals? What could they possibly be teaching us? We know how labs work. We know what biological engineering is, we wouldn’t be majoring in it if we didn’t. We already take CI-H classes for writing. What can we possibly learn from this class?” Although I still stand by the biological engineering bit (I don’t know about you but that picture basically exactly summarizes why I’m a biological engineer and what I tell people biological engineering is), I’ve never been more wrong in my skepticism… 

I have never been one of those kids who yearns for summer vacation; I’ve always been sad as the end of classes approached, because regardless of the class, I grow attached to my instructors and to the material, as well as to the experiences and memories with classmates. Part of me fears the unknown that the next semester brings. But I’ve never been this sad about a semester ending, and although I can’t say it’s all due to 20.109, the overwhelming majority of it is.

The amount I learned from 20.109 rivals every other class not just in magnitude and breadth, but definitely in quality. I learned the most basic things like how to actually read a research paper (FINALLY) and how to write like an actual scientist (I didn’t realize just how different it was from what I’ve been used to), but I also learned completely non-academic things, like the fact that complete strangers can come into your life out of nowhere and become so hugely meaningful; it’s not just a myth. I mean, I was aware of this somewhat, but I don’t think I ever actually saw the capacity of human generosity and care until the 20.109 instructors showed me what it was like to have professors who were truly benevolent and cared from the very bottom of their hearts. The world is sorely lacking in beautiful people like you guys…

Yes, I'm cheesy. 

Now before I cry all over my computer, let’s talk tangible stuff. Like papers and figures. All that fun stuff I learned that I didn’t actually know anything about. We’ve all talked paper-writing to death, but isn’t a picture worth a thousand words? Figure-making might be one of the most underappreciated communication skills out there, and one of my favorite things to have done this semester. In middle school they told us PowerPoint would end up being a valuable skill, but no one prepared me for the exhilaration of mastering PowerPoint shapes, or the raw power rush of blocking out image text with an opaque rectangle, the god-like control of just adding your own text wherever you want...

Marketable skills: PowerPoint

So, there are a lot of take-aways we’re leaving with, but my take-away on making figures is one of my favorites: A picture may be worth a thousand words, but unless it’s captioned well, paneled correctly, and labelled logically, it may as well be the word “poop” written a thousand times. On the other hand, if you know how to treat a picture right, turn it into putty in your hands, you can make it say almost anything. Whether or not it’s correct and logical is another story, but isn’t the power of figures awesome?

In the end, fine, I will concede, after all the figures and papers and PowerPoints, I did learn a bit more about what biological engineering is. It is about making new things, be they tangible or just ideas, but it isn’t about making new things that should never have existed, like people tend to joke about BE. I put this sentence in our Mod 3 mini-report because I liked it too much to cut it, but I just realized it belongs more here: “To keep up with the pressure of scientific progress, research has increasingly been turning to biology for out-of-the-box answers to synthetic problems, finding that nature is often the most environmentally friendly and creative engineer.” That’s the beauty of biological engineering, and it was and remains the reason for my desire to be a biological engineer. BE isn’t about showing nature up, which I feel like a lot of people vainly think humanity is about. It’s about turning to nature for help, because humanity is like a stubborn child who thinks they don’t need help and their work alone is better than anyone else’s. I’ve always been awestruck by nature, both by its serene beauty and majestic power. To me, being a biological engineer means never outgrowing that sense of wonder, as well as the desire to play with nature. It’s about respect for the world around us, what has existed and will continue to exist way beyond the short blip of our lifespans.

I mean, when it comes down to it, we humans are just a parasite. So here’s to symbiosis and not being the asshole tapeworms we’ve been being!

No comments:

Post a Comment