You know that feeling of clarity, the one that comes with knowing exactly what you want to do and where you want to be?  It was what I felt when, marveling at the simple and eccentric behavior of a fish, I realized that I could spend my life studying the brain.  It was the excitement when, touring the UCSF campus, I saw clearly how naturally I could fit in.  It’s the restlessness I feel, now that I know what lab I want to join for the next six years.

I haven’t finished my last rotation yet, but I have a good feeling that I will be choosing my second lab.  It’s not what I imagined I would do–not what I had planned at all.  I came to UCSF thinking that I would use molecular tools to dissect the behavior in fruit flies.  On a whim, because I needed to find a third lab to fulfill my requirements, I picked one that studies songbirds so I could at least say that I tried something out of my field.  I’m really glad I did, because it turns out that I love my “get in, get out quick” rotation.

I don’t know how to describe what jumping fields from molecular to systems is like.  It involves learning a completely different set of tools.  No more genetics and molecular biology, all the things that I had been trained on.  Instead of asking questions at the intracellular level, I will be stepping back to study how activity is coordinated and processed through circuits to generate behavior.  I will be diving head first into electrophysiology, so that I can understand how information is passed along ensembles of neurons.

Isn’t it funny how doing something out of your comfort zone helps you understand yourself better?  But it’s not that I am doing a complete 180.  I am just rediscovering what I really want to do and why I decided to pursue neuroscience in the first place: to understand the underpinnings of behavior.  Behavior, it’s what floors me every time.  Sure, I could study signaling pathways and molecular mechanisms that could affect behavior somewhere far down the line, but to know the functional interactions between neurons will require that I reach beyond what I am familiar with.  And I am so excited to start.

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

I am a peanut butter fan, love the creamy stuff.  I finish a jar every 1.5 weeks.  For these, I used Trader Joe’s PB with Sea Salt, and I cannot stop thinking about popping the next cookie into my mouth.

 

You know, I wouldn’t be a Christian either if I hadn’t let myself take a chance.  It’s just interesting to think about, isn’t it?

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