It is a weird thing to say I have 4 degrees. I live in a world where people are revered for cheating their way to the top. I have had to fight for everything I have ever gotten. I did not have scholarships. I had no athletic inclination. I was looked over by teachers and told I could never be a nurse let alone a doctor by an English teacher in 7th grade. She laughed at me and openly made fun of me in front of my mother and others. I didn’t have a lot in the way of science toys because they were in the boy’s department. I wanted robots, chemistry sets, microscopes, and sea monkeys. I did get a few of those things as I got a bit older…because I pressed upon family that it meant something to me.
As a child I wanted to be a scientist. Society in many forms pushed really hard to tell me NO. That is not what girls do.
I enter college…a nursing program…and find I love research. I could right now, be a nurse in less than a year…lacking a handful of clinical classes. I left the program failing intentionally because I did not have the heart for nursing. Some pushed hard for me to be a nurse. I wanted them to think I couldn’t do it…so I failed, on purpose.
After that, I became many things in my life…put on many hats. Performance, DJ, film, sales, management…but science would not be silent. It is a part of me. I returned to school after several attempts of giving up on myself because I thought I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t be a scientist. That wasn’t real for me…
With support of family, I return to school in 2009 to university with 5 years of school under my belt with a few bad grades…from life circumstances forcing me to drop from school, having to move, having to work, not able to make ends meet…I had 4 jobs at one point in my life with 2 days off a month. I knew I had a lot of work and past failures to overcome.
I graduated in 2011 with a degree in Biology. I took the courses I needed to retake. I made the Dean’s list, made A’s in calculus, fought through chemistry (after not having it for what seemed like decades), performed cancer and genetics research. I have a few low grades left on my undergrad transcript. I could retake those classes…but I’m in graduate school now.
I had worked so hard to achieve and overcome the past. I wanted a PhD in Biology. I consulted with someone I had worked with in research for a year who told me (paraphrased), “Science is hard. You’re a girl. You should be a teacher. We need good teachers. You could get your EDD. That’s what they call it, yes?” He would only write me a letter of recommendation if I promised to be a teacher.
So…I became a High School Biology teacher. I was quite good at it. With each year, I improved my teaching methods. Most of my students were from meager means. I grew up in this area…Farmlands…small towns…I knew what they had been taught in science. I knew they would struggle with concepts that conflicted with what they were told growing up. I wouldn’t force knowledge on them. I wouldn’t make them learn. That wouldn’t work. I gave them something others hadn’t…respect. I told them that they had been told what to think their whole lives and I would never tell them what to think. That was not my job. I only wanted to teach them how to think. I told them they have amazing brains and I want them to come to their own conclusions. I would only present evidence. I wanted them to look at the evidence and make up their own minds. It was entirely up to them what they would believe. They could always tell me I am wrong, but I would ask for their evidence as we are all scientists in my science classroom. My students…I moved 30% above what their predicted scores were on state tests and many took Biology 2 from me because they wanted to know more.
While I taught high school, I completed my first Master’s degree of Arts in Teaching specialized in science education and my second undergrad in science…this time, Chemistry. My graduate school GPA ended with a 3.75 only making a single B.
While completing my second undergrad in chemistry, I was offered a lab teaching position by the Chair of the chemistry department at the time (now Assistant Dean). I continued to teach both university and high school while completing my 3rd degree. During this time, I was offered an assistantship to enter graduate school for chemistry by the new Chair of the department. I am still in this program. I complete my 4th degree in May…a Masters of Science in Chemistry…my graduate school GPA is now a 3.71. I will find out soon if I continue on to the PhD program…there are still tests to complete and papers to write, but I am hopeful. I have had things beyond my control that have tripped me up here and there, but I have to remain positive that my work is what matters and not my circumstances. My research mentor (the Assistant Dean) is an amazing teacher. I am thankful for her. I am grateful for how far I have come. If this is the end for me, what an amazing experience.
So here I am…weeks away from my 4th degree. It is weird saying that. I have 4 degrees. I actually have 4 degrees. My student loan is something I don’t want to talk about. Perhaps I have an addiction to this thing called science? Perhaps this is an investment in me? I think I am worth it. Other than people in my life, I have never loved anything more than my ability to learn and discover what makes the world go. While I feel strange in this world of science as it has been a “boy’s club”…and at times I think I am an imposter…which is silly. I deserve to be here. This is home. This is who I am. I am the little girl beaming with the chemistry set…sharing my smiles and my science with the world.
My blog, my twitter, my interactive videocasts are to share with you…my smiles…my joy…my accomplishments. So that is Scientist Mel in a nutshell.
Thank you for being here.