Once upon a time, when I thought that a king size KitKat bar constituted a balanced breakfast, I studied science. I wasn’t a very good scientist mind you. But a university decided that I could stuff enough facts in my head to justify admitting me to a science program.
And somehow I stayed in that program. This is mostly due to my close friend Charity* who regularly won sizeable government grants for her contributions to science. She taught me that libraries aren’t just a quiet space to take a nap.
Charity is also the sole reason that I ended up on the Dean’s list all four years running. Sometimes it was her help with specific assignments; she edited more poorly written papers than I think either of us cares to remember. Other times Charity gave me advice, like the time I rehearsed a presentation for her that was worth half my grade or some other such nonsense and she said it was terrible. Only in different words, and much nicer and more subtly, so I spent a harried evening revising it. Charity then Pagaent-Mommed her way through that presentation of mine, sitting directly behind the professor, gesticulating to speed up and smiling broadly as a reminder of what my face should look like. She also took away my cue cards before I presented because Charity’s a hardcore academic like that.
Then there was the time that Charity used her connections to get me better marks; I once handed in a lab with the pages stapled out of order, I was justifiably docked ten percent for my error. I complained to Charity, who had a look at the mediocre assignment in question and then chided the lab tech that had marked my work, who (fortunately or unfortunately depending on your point of view) worked in the same lab that Charity did and was a friend of hers. My lab marks improved considerably after that interaction, and not due to my own abilities.
After all of that, I graduated university with the identical degree my mother was given twenty years before me- a Bachelor’s of Science with an Honors Specialization in Genetics. Although I clung to the idea that I was science minded for a time, after spending six months working as a performer in the arts and then starting up this blog four years ago, I’ve since given up the ghost. Here are a couple of excerpts about my brief stint in science.
The first one is from Charity herself, who now works a science writer for a premier hospital.
“What [Unwashed] lacked in report writing and technical expertise, [she] made up for with oodles and oodles of unbridled curiosity and enthusiasm.”
So in essence I was a cheerleader being all “GOOOOOOOOOOOO SCIENCE! Microarrays! Whoo! Whoo!” And the shortness of my skirts and pom poms distracted from my complete inability to do lab work.
My personal favourite quote is from another friend who had the misfortune of being my first year physics lab partner. Despite being two years younger than me, he seemed far more mature. There’s something about having freshly ironed pants which will give a knowing air to any undergrad. He is now the brains behind a scientific research team in California. Sometime after we had graduated, I approached my friend and apologized profusely for never being prepared for our physics labs or doing anything in said labs while he worked frantically. To which he chortled good-naturedly and replied
“Oh Unwashed, you brought the entertainment.”
Well, I can lay claim to something. And at the very least I’m not this woman. I may not practice science but I don’t go around touting bad science that hospitalizes babies and children.
Thus, when I met Tex two and a half years ago, I introduced myself as an artist. Along with describing the activities I enjoy most in my life, this title has the added benefit of excusing much bizarre behaviour. Understandably, a passionate lover of engineering, my husband on occasion forgets that I have a working knowledge of science and will explain basic concepts to me such as osmosis. Given how I act and what I create in our life together, I try to take this in stride. However the other week, my Mom, who has the same degree as me, whose thesis supervisor was one of my lecturers, a fact that we would discuss on occasion, explained basic cell biology to me.
You know you’re truly a failed scientist when your own mother forgets that you understand more than chi, modern art and interpretative dance.
*Names have been changed to protect those who are the reason for me to succeeding in higher education.