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Baaaaah... procrastination...

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May. 19th, 2006 | 12:41 pm
mood: stressedstressed

The Rules: If you'd like to play the game, comment on this entry and say that you want me to interview you. I will then ask you five questions. You will post the answers in your own journal along with a short message explaining the rules. It's easy, fun, and not too invasive, so be a sheep and jump on the BAAAndwagon.

1) When did you decide to go into the field of neuroscience/the other sciency things you do? What made you choose that over theater/dance/music, which is obviously your other passion?

Honestly, I don't remember a time in my life when I didn't want to be a scientist. What kind of scientist has changed over the years -- when I was about six, I wanted to invent a "sickness eater" that would painlessly remove pathogens from people's bodies and send them into the sun via rocket so that they couldn't reinfect other people... by the time I was 13, I wanted to be a hematologist, then by 15 I stumbled upon the journal of neurogenetics in the biomedical research library at the U of M and thought 'Hey! That's what I want to do with my life!' It later developed into my current focus and life goal when I was sitting with a random person and my mom eating dinner before a performance at the Guthrie and said random woman asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. To which I said "a medical research neurogeneticist." Accused of believing in designer babies (which I don't believe in), I corrected her statement to say that I think some neural disorders, learning disabilities in particular are genetic, but mostly solvable if caught early on (which, often, sadly, they aren't). So I felt (and still feel) that early screenings for a genetic propensity for dyslexia would allow us to start teaching kids reading in a way that is comfortable for how they learn, instead of having them spend years in a public school system feeling slow and stupid (when many are in fact very gifted).

I wound up in psychophysics and vision science as my ultimate approach to this problem because I tried molecular neuroscience for a year and hated it. PCR in a hood (necessary to avoid contamination of samples) and southern blotting basically require stereo depth perception which I don't and can't have, and while this doesn't much affect me in most day-to-day activities, it showed up badly in that environment and made me feel at a disadvantage. Not pleasant. So I switched to doing psychophysics and perception in a vision lab at NYU and discovered that the more I learned about it, the more I liked it. The rest, as they say, is history.

What made me choose science over dance/theatre/music despite the fact that I am probably more (emotionally) passionate about the latter, is related to a few things. First, I can always find ways to pursue those passions around science. I can't really be a 'recreational scientist'. And I definitely couldn't do the kind of science I want unless I commit to it first. Dance/music/theatre are also my source of solace and refuge when life gets really tough. I am not exceptionally talented in any of the areas -- better than 95% of people, yes, but in that top .5 - 1% who really make it, probably not, so I felt that trying to use the arts for my source of income would harm their cathartic value for me.

2) You've lived in the two American cities that are considered cool - SF and NYC. How are they cool? Is one cooler? How different are they in their cool-osity? Are people from SF even people...and do they make a noise if you cut them down in a forest when nobody is around? (ignore the last one)

I don't think I can make a claim as to whether SF is cooler than NYC or vice-versa -- both are truly unique places with unique personalities, and I love both.

NYC is cool for the fact that it never sleeps. I love that I can order tacos there at 2 am and have them delivered to where I live. I love the energy that NYC has, and its intensity -- so many people there are so good at so many things, and I think being surrounded by that gives you a kind of awareness of the world and education about life and people that's hard to find elsewhere. Also, so many people of so many kinds so densely packed that I think it's awfully hard to live in that environment and remain narrow, focused on only your world and nothing else. Also, cheap and reliable public transit scores many points.

SF is cool because it feels very balanced. It offers everything that big cities offer -- museums, science, art, music, dance, theatre (much of it very good), but adds to it that it's easy to get away into secluded natural environments. What I love about living here is that I can actually go to the beach or go skiing (in real mountains, no less!) or go to the forest without it being a big production that requires tons of planning. And at least on the Berkeley side of the bay, the weather is pretty nice year round, and I think that leaves people with a sort of tacit understanding of how important it is to get out of lab or the office or wherever and do things -- enjoy the world we live in and the nature that surrounds us because it's really beautiful.

And um... so far, the people that I've met from SF are in fact people. Shocking, I know.

3) Where do you want to live? I know you'll be for a while at the mercy of where you can get jobs at universities...but what would be the ideal for you?

Probably somewhere in New England, preferably near Boston. In part because it's an unexplored part of my history -- My parents met while working in Boston... I was born in New Hampshire, but moved to Texas before I was old enough to remember life in New Hampshire, etc, so it has sort of this tug at me as something that I need and want to experience. Plus I've always enjoyed my visits to Boston and I think it's the kind of place that I'd want to raise kids -- it offers all kinds of cool things for being broad, interesting people, but I wouldn't have the worry as a parent that one bad decision on the part of my kid would end up with them in really dire straits (which I would worry about in a place like, say, New York).

Also: they have real seasons there. As great as the weather is here, winter needs to have snow. Fall needs to have leaves that turn pretty colors. Spring needs to feel like there is newness everywhere.

4) You've always told me how important and influential your mother has been to you (largely because your mom kicked ass!). In what ways are you like her? How are you different from her? In what ways are you not like her, but would like to be?

I am like my mother in that, as one of her childhood friends told me when I was 11 or so, I have her heart. If I tune in to where people are, I often know a lot about them without having to be told. And I am genuinely sympathetic and empathetic toward people, even if I don't like them. I will forgive and forgive and forgive, even at times that I probably shouldn't, and I try to see the best in everyone. I find it difficult to remain angry with anyone, and especially difficult to hate them. Also (and less importantly), I have her laugh and manner of answering the phone. (Really... it's rather uncanny -- people have been confusing her with me and me with her when I answer the phone for years). Another way that I am coming to realize that I am like her is that she would take it upon herself to learn about the passions of people who were close to her -- not to necessarily pursue them herself, or to be an expert, but to understand, to better relate to those around her. Which is turning out to be very much true of me. I have my own passions, that I love and care about just because I love and care about them, but I also have a whole mess of interests that are sort of related to other people, in the sense that they are things I have thought about and considered and learned about in order to better understand people who really matter to me (I think that over the course of my life, since I have so many people in it who matter to me, this will mean that I end up being interested in practically everything, which, is a good place to be).

I am not like her in that I think a lot (sometimes too much) about everything I do. It's very hard for me to trust my intuition and follow my heart, even if I know my heart is right, trusting it is somewhat unexplored territory. I like research and facts and really knowing. I approach problems and ask questions and collect detail until something happens to force a decision, and the decision is based on calculated facts and a lot of analysis. My mom made decisions rationally, but would often go on a hunch (because her hunches are pretty much always right) where I would delay a decision for lack of data.

I don't really think in terms of the ways in which I am not like her but want to be because I really like myself as I am, and I like being me -- I don't want to be a clone or a cheap imitation of my mother (and I couldn't be even if I wanted to be). But I do sort of think about that question in terms of the sorts of traits she had that balanced me that I seek out in other people. The biggest one of these is how adventurous her spirit was. She was always doing interesting things and going interesting places, often at close to a moment's notice. I'm sort of a careful planner who always worries about the implications, which has its many upsides, but does mean that I need sort of a restless spirit to keep me from getting too stuck in my own life. She was also a lot better at 'work hard, play hard' than I am. When it was time to play, it was time to play, and thinking about/stressing about/worrying about work was not allowed. In the company of people who are playing, I will happily play and stop thinking about work. But it's not really my nature to do so. The last is that she was fundamentally silly. She understood seriousness and intensity and when to take serious things seriously, but her general approach to life is that it is a fun, grand adventure, and that life should be lived with smiles and laughter and teasing and a healthy dose of utter nonsense.

5) You can now only eat one style of food for the next month. What is it, and why?

Oh, you are cruel! I'm so spoiled by my opportunities for eating cuisines from a variety of ethnicities cuisine... I guess if I had to pick one style of food for the next month, though, French cuisine would probably be it, as it has a huge variety of sauces and cooking techniques and ingredients, so I don't think I would be likely to get bored. Also, it has a lot of variety in its richness... some is very rich, other very light, some intensely flavourful, other milder. And it includes wine as sort of a dietary staple. I might consider Japanese, however, as it is fairly varied in terms of meats, cooking approaches (tempura, teriyaki, sushi), and is pretty light, and the thought of not having sushi for an entire month is more than a little unpleasant.

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from: stellae
date: May. 19th, 2006 08:36 pm (UTC)

okay, mee. Hmm...

1. You once told me that it is important to learn something new from every relationship. What have you learned from each of yours?

2. Who has been the most influential person in your life thus, and why? How has he/she influenced you?

3. If you had the option of going somewhere, anywhere in the world for up to 3 months, expenses paid, but with the condition that you could never go back, where would you go and why?

4. If you could go back into your past and change one and only one thing, what would you change and why?

5. Tell me about the 3 coolest uses of fire that you are aware of. Why are they cool?

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