How I got here

When I was a young child, I remember watching my older brother (7 years older than me) and one of my cousins (10 years older than me) tinker with their computers so they could connect them to play DOOM together. My brother even managed to convince me to play with him when my cousin could not come over. However, I ended up having nightmares and he got in a lot of trouble once our parents found out.

I never thought to study computer science.

Of course my brother and my cousin pursued CS degrees, they loved computers. Many of their weekends were spent upgrading or researching parts for their desktops. It was only natural. Meanwhile, I had no idea what I wanted to major in. My original plan was to study medicine, so I decided to pursue a Biology degree. But as I looked at all the hoops I would have to jump through, I realized I was not passionate enough about medicine. So I went with my backup plan: finish my Biology degree and find a job in Biotech.

The first script I ever wrote was to save time doing a repetitive task in the lab. I worked as a member of the manufacturing team for a Biotech start up making microscopic beads that were tagged with a DNA barcode. One important step in the manufacturing process was sizing these beads. To do so, I would use a microscope to take 20 pictures of a small aliquot. Then I would use a program that draws a circle around each bead and would provide a size for each bead found within a picture.

The problem, however, was the output: the analysis program would save individual CSVs for each picture. My coworkers would manually copy-paste each individual CSV into a larger file and then use this to calculate the average. The first time I saw this I just remember thinking “yeah I’m not doing that.”

So I spent the next month learning how to write an excel macro. It took forever. I watched a lot of tutorials, opened countless Stack Overflow pages and crashed Excel many times. But I succeeded and what was originally an hour long task now took less than a minute. My coworkers were delighted.

The second script I ever wrote was a similar story. We would track our experiments online with each experiment receiving its own page. But we did not have a database that summarized all this data. For example: if I wanted every experiment that used a specific instrument, I would have to search for the data and pull it all into a spreadsheet manually. Once again, I decided I was not doing that. I learned how to convert an HTML document into a CSV using python.

At first, I enjoyed lab work. Each college lab class is more of a crash course of a variety of lab techniques. Every one to two weeks you would be doing something new. But the longer I worked the more I realized that lab work is very repetitive. Some people find it very Zen and others, like myself, get bored of it very quickly. I wrote the second script around the time I began realizing that maybe lab work is not for me.

A few months later, I enrolled in OSU’s Postbacc program.

I still can’t believe it’s my final term. The last 2 years have really felt like a whirlwind. I’m excited to graduate and find my place in this new career!

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