In my anatomy and organic chemistry lectures, I'm constantly surrounded by aspiring doctors, physician assistants, scientists and pharmacists. "I'm going to med school," they say. No room for mistakes in the atmosphere of cutthroat competition. Each knows exactly what they need to do to reach their goals.
Theirs is a more well-trodden path than mine, and they are able to find solace in that.
In my journalism classes, I sit with the soon-to-be sports reporters, TV broadcasters and novelists. They each have an air of confidence that I've noticed in most communication students. They are unafraid to ask anyone a question. They never seem to be intimidated about sharing their work with the world. For that, I envy them.
I'm a scientist who loves writing; a journalist who loves her chemistry models. For the most part, I stand firm in my dream of being a science writer. Yet, there are weeks like this past one, with anatomy and organic chemistry exams bookending basic photography and journalism assignments, when I think I should just give up and choose one or the other. After all, how many papers and magazines are even looking for science writers? By the time I have enough experience to specifically write science, will my science major even be relevant? Our #loweclass guest had an answer for me.
On Wednesday, Mira Lowe, senior features editor for CNN Digital, spoke to our JOUR 2100 class. Though it was the middle of one such tough week, I was thrilled to be in the presence of such a successful journalist and editor.
She had us look at the first chapter of "Sandy's Story" prior to meeting for class. It was a beautiful piece of medical journalism which aimed to put a face to Alzheimer's disease. (Side note: The story is partly reported by Sanjay Gupta, which I was very excited about since I want to be the not-a-doctor-female version of Sanjay Gupta when I grow up. Not an astronaut nor a ballerina. Sanjay Gupta.)
There are ultimately two things that Lowe reminded me that day. First, that specialization is the way to go. She told us that though it may be a bit harder to break in to the industry, in the long run, specialization is what she looks for in reporters. Second, that there are people out there who are writing about science in amazing, emotional and relevant ways. Science writing may be a shrinking profession, but there are still women and men out there who are passionate about teaching readers about how science is changing lives on a daily basis. We can all empathize with the frustration and fear that Sandy must feel as his Alzheimer's progresses. His story still matters and it always will.
So, yes, my double major is difficult. Yes, people give me looks of horror at the thought of merging the (seemingly) unrelated paths. But just as often, people are excited for me. They are impressed. They are the people who fuel my passion for science writing.
They remind me that as long as I keep working at it, one day, I can be Sanjay Gupta.