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The Little Scientist That Could: How My Curious Nature as a Child Drove Me into Science

When I was three, I was introduced to the task of brushing my teeth. After about a few weeks my parents decided that I no longer needed supervision. Well, let’s just say that this was a big mistake. Being little, I wasn’t very skilled at cleaning up after brushing my teeth. So, there were various smears of toothpaste in my toothbrush drawer, on the counter, and in the sink. I began to notice that these smears had different textures. I really liked the one that was more like the texture of clay. I could roll it around and shape it into whatever I wanted. But it was such a small amount that I couldn’t really do much with it. So, I wanted to figure out a way to make more. I began to intentionally make new toothpaste smears in my toothbrush drawer. Sometimes they got too dried out, so I would add water, but those ended up being too wet. This went on and on until I ran out of toothpaste. I told my mom that I needed more, which surprised her because I had been given a new tube only a few weeks prior. So, she promptly went to investigate and found my toothbrush drawer filled with toothpaste smears. She then asked me why I had toothpaste all over my drawer. Which I then went on to explain about my experiment. My dad had showed up at this point, and asked me, “If I wanted clay, why didn’t I ask for it?” I told them, that I wanted to make it myself. I was admonished for my behavior, and then supervised for quite a while after that. Even today, my toothbrush drawer has remnants of dried out blue toothpaste smears.

Although I hadn’t been introduced to the formal concept of science experimentation, there I was at the age of three performing a science experiment. Throughout my childhood I did many different experiments without even knowing it. My goal was always the same; to attempt to replicate things that I observed in my natural environment. With time my parents began to pick up on this behavior. They encouraged my curiosity by providing opportunities for me to develop my inner scientist. We went to science museums and performed experiments as a family. To develop my critical thinking skills, they asked me questions; like “Where does the wind come from?”. Although my parents never pushed me into science, I think that their efforts to feed my natural curiosity lead me to pursue a career in the sciences. Although my decision to become a scientist was easy, my path to becoming a scientist has not. Science classes in college were really hard. I had to study long hours and missed hanging out with my friends. Even my parents at one point during my freshman year began to question if I was cut out to be a scientist. My instant response to this was that it wasn’t fair of them to judge based on a few months of school. So, I buckled down, and was even more determined to be successful if only to prove them wrong. I guess in a weird way, I have my parents to thank for helping me stay the course on becoming a scientist even in the face of despair. Now, when I find myself frustrated in the lab, I think about myself at three years old making clay out of toothpaste. I ask myself, if I really want to stop doing experiments and leave my questions about the natural world unanswered. The answer is always the same; I am a scientist at heart, even if my mind seems to disagree every now and then.

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