It is one of those rare, once in a blue moon, extraordinary moments, where a scientist strolling past your poster ends up becoming your mentor. But it does happen as it did with me yesterday afternoon whilst presenting our work on light-activated inteins. There was me, stumbling through my presentation, flustered and incomprehensible. And there was her calm, composed and keenly listening and nodding. She had a reassuring air in her voice, an energy oozing from within and a deep passion for biophysics in her eyes. She was patiently listening and asking those encouraging, motivational, “feel-good” questions.
Afterwards, we started chatting and in her words, I found great wisdom. Such wisdom that I asked her to be my mentor right on the spot and nagged her to give me her autograph. I found in her all the things that I wanted to be; things which went beyond just being an accomplished scientist. As we spoke, I fought the urge to take out my notebook and start scribbling, not wanting to come off as rude. So with the weak memory I possess, I tried to absorb as much of her words as I could.
Here is what I learned from the few minutes we were in touch:
- Passion. Great research is driven by passion, by that flame that once ignited remains eternal and lights many others.
- Persistence. At times, it will get bad, then it will get worse and then maybe even unbearable, but as she said, “It will get better…” And in the hopes of that better, we struggle onwards.
- Resilience. Picking yourself up again and moving ahead headstrong will define how far you reach. After spraining her ankle, she is still attending the meeting. With a clutch in one hand, she is still making an impact.
- Self worth. It is easy to start comparing yourself to your colleagues and lose yourself in publications, presentations and grants. But, know that your academic record does not define your self worth.
- Connections. It is important to make meaningful connections with others – not just to initiate the hasty networking hello but genuinely make the effort to get to know people who share your passion.
In my first post, I emphasized our UofT community but now I feel a part of a greater, in many ways a richer, community. And if this sense of community is all I take back home with me this year, it will be more than enough!
You can meet this great personality today at the New Member Welcome Coffee in Rm. 404AB from 10:15 – 11:15 AM.
To learn more about her research exploring membrane domain dynamics, be sure to drop by the poster Investigating membrane domain dynamics using multimodal optical microscopy (B183) on Wednesday morning.
But more importantly, take a moment and let her words sink in and become your mantra: “It will get better…”