Pitt Bio Blog
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
by Nora Mosch
Nora is a senior Molecular Biology (Cell & Developmental track) student at Pitt. She plans to get a PhD in her future.
Cognitive dissonance: the anxiety that results from simultaneously holding contradictory or otherwise incompatible attitudes, beliefs, or the like, as when one likes a person but disapproves strongly of one of his or her habits. Developed by U.S. social psychologist Leon Festinger (1957).
There is a sense of cognitive dissonance in America and specifically among college students. If you ask anyone on the street what they value, most will reply with family, friends, or significant others. But what we do on a day to day basis doesn’t reflect these values. When was the last time you actively worked on your friendship, put real time in? Or do you just see your friends in passing on the way to class or during a study break? You probably see them for a few minutes, maybe an hour or so to get coffee between classes. The cognitive dissonance arises when we realize what we value is not where we focus our time and effort.
College forces students to value grades. But those grades only matter for a moment. I bet you don’t remember your grades from your first semester here. If those grades actually mattered than you would remember every exam score. Any over-achieving student will tell you that those grades could mean the difference between getting into medical school or not. I’m here to tell you, they don’t. Maybe a D vs. an A matters but an A- vs. a B+ matters less. Once you leave academia, the world doesn’t care about your grades. They are just arbitrary letters that may or may not reflect how “smart” you are. Every job recruiter or graduate school knows that. You spend hours and hours studying for the Bio 2 Final and two years later, the grade is just a letter on your transcript.
I came to this realization last November, over Thanksgiving Break. I had a very hard semester and it almost ruined a lot of my relationships. At that point, I had been in a committed relationship with my boyfriend for almost a year. Yet, I was so focused on my grades, I became seriously depressed. I spent most of my time in my room alone, studying and barely eating. If I did eat, I made microwave pizza rolls and chips. I suffered and refused to talk to ask for help. Spending all of my time studying, I ended up hurting my relationship with my boyfriend: I was yelling at him for no reason and blaming him for my problems.
Ultimately I had a wakeup call when we ended up splitting up. I realized how much I valued my relationship and how I took advantage of it. At Thanksgiving, I came to a decision. No A was worth losing him. I would have to take a lower grade if it meant studying less and putting time into fixing the relationship. At the end of the day is a B+ really any worse than an A-? Grades only last a moment. The relationships you have with the people around you will last forever. I can’t tell you what my freshman year grades were, but I do know that because I worked for my relationship, we ended up back together and happy.
So take a look at your life. I mean really look. What do you value? And how do you spend most of your time? Why are you taking the classes you are taking? Do you value friends and family but only see them once and a while because you have to study? Trust me, the hour you spend watching jeopardy while on the phone so you can yell at the contestants with your mom is worth the difference between an A- and a B+ on your next exam.
Junior Bioinformatics student
As a bioinformatics major, I knew that I was interested in pursuing a career at the intersection of computer science and biology. As a non-premed, I had no idea what that might actually look like. I decided to find a research position over the summer in order to see whether research could be a potential future career. I was looking for paid work, so I mostly limited my search to REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) programs. Funded by the National Science Foundation, these programs are hosted at universities across the country and provide housing, a meal plan, and a stipend as you participate in full-time research under a faculty mentor (a complete list of programs and more information can be found here). Each program centers around a particular research topic - genomics, for example, or medical informatics.
I picked six or seven programs I was interested in, sent in my applications, and was accepted into one - the Models in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology REU at the University of Kansas. As someone interested in both computer science and biology, its focus on the application of mathematical and computational techniques to answer ecological and evolutionary questions appealed to me. My project involved identifying sex-linked genes in butterflies using genomic data. After doing some preliminary reading once I finished my spring semester, I was ready to begin work.
The other students in my program and I jumped right into research once we arrived, spending our weekdays working in our labs from 9 to 5. My project was computational, so I used a lot of that time to write code. In addition to our individual projects, we had weekly group activities on topics such as research ethics, abstract writing, or how to give a talk. Since the theme of the REU was the application of models to ecological questions, we would occasionally take day trips off campus to learn more about ecology as a field. One such trip took us to the Konza Prairie Biological Field Station run by Kansas State University to learn about the long-term ecological research that goes on there.
We spent down time in our dorm and in downtown Lawrence (where the University of Kansas is located). A particular favorite of ours was buy-one-get-one-free ice cream on Tuesday nights at Sylas and Maddys.
At the end of the summer. we each gave a 15-minute talk on our results, presented posters, and completed a rough draft of a manuscript.
I had a really great time and learned a lot of useful and concrete skills. While I enjoyed my work, I found that academic research is probably not the right path for me. I did, however, find the statistical aspects of my project super interesting and am looking into pursuing a M.S. in Biostatistics as a result.
My advice to underclassmen would be to go outside of your comfort zone! I chose the REU at the University of Kansas - which has an ecology focus - despite having absolutely no experience in the field. Had I let my fears of being under-qualified keep me from sending in that application, I would have missed out on a great summer.
Hello! My name is Michaela Schreyer. I am a Pennsylvania native and grew up in a rural town called Hastings, located about 2 hours east of Pittsburgh. I am currently a senior biological sciences major. I just finished applying to medical school and (hopefully!) will be attending next year. As an MCAT survivor, I am more than eager to offer some of my tips to testing and medical school applications as a peer advisor this semester. During my time at Pitt I have had the opportunity to get involved with research, service, and have acted as a UTA in a number of science courses. In addition to my interests in science and medicine, I have always loved to sing. I have spent the past 2 years singing with the Pitt Women's Choral Ensemble, and I got to go on tour with the choir this summer in Nashville! I'm so looking forward to meeting many of you and encourage you to stop by if you have any questions or just want to chat!
Hi! My name is Julia Swarthout, and I’m a junior studying biological sciences. I grew up just outside of Boston, Massachusetts, alongside my twin sister, older sister, and older brother. I decided mainly to come to Pittsburgh because of how amazing the biology program is for preparing students for medical school, and also what an exciting city Pittsburgh is. Biology has always been a passion of mine, and getting to study it here at Pitt has been such a rewarding ride for me. My goal is to go to medical school and eventually become a reproductive endocrinologist, as I would love to be able to help women who struggle with infertility and having children. I currently work as an undergraduate researcher at the Center for Vaccine Research, in a lab that focuses on understanding and searching for cures for HIV through the use of non-human primates. I also work as an undergraduate teaching assistant for introductory biology courses, and as a cashier at Piada Italian Street Food. I volunteer at West Penn Hospital, where I work to help prevent delirium in elderly patients, and I serve homeless people dinner at a church downtown. When I’m home, I work as a home health aid for elderly patients in my community. In my free time, I love getting to explore different parts of Pittsburgh, and am always looking for new adventures! Cooking, watching Netflix, and reading are some of my favorite things to do when I have spare time. I look forward to meeting everyone and getting to serve as a peer advisor!
Hi everyone! My name is Sofie Patzak. A bit about me…
I was born in Texas so my favorite season here in Pittsburgh is definitely the summer. This summer was an especially rewarding one for me, because I got to spend it at a camp called The Woodlands Foundation where I worked with children and adults with disability and chronic illness. When I’m not working or studying, I love spending my free time in the outdoors or going to any art/music/cultural events happening here in the Burgh. This will be my fourth year playing for Pitt’s Club Ultimate Frisbee Team and my fourth semester volunteering at the Shadyside Hospital as part of their delirium prevention program called H.E.L.P.
I am majoring in Biological Sciences and Sociology with future plans to attend a Physician Assistant graduate program. I absolutely love science and helping others, so this seemed like the perfect career track for me. Luckily, this year I get to combine both of those interests as a bio peer advisor, so if you guys have any questions about anything at all – bio classes, opportunities in health care fields, or are just generally confused since its your first or second year and you don’t know where you see yourself in the future (we’ve all been there before) – do not hesitate to come talk to me in office hours! I am all ears for you guys and hope to see you soon.
Hello! My name is Owen Poling and I am a Senior majoring in Biological Sciences and have an Asian History minor. Currently, I have a very strong interest in dentistry, and hope to attend dental school in the next couple of years. During my time at Pitt I have been able to gain experience with research, volunteering, and establishing solid relationships with university faculty and professors. Most recently, I had the wonderful experience of traveling abroad to the Dominican Republic this past summer to provide free dental care to rural communities. I am currently working as a dental assistant at a small local practice, as well. As a Biological Sciences Peer Advisor I strive to help you anyway I can and hope that my experiences and input can assist you in establishing and reaching your goals as well as assuring your time spent with the Bio Department and Faculty is memorable and enjoyable. I look forward to seeing you at campus events or my office hours!”
Hello my name is Parker Denz. I’m a senior here at Pitt with a major in microbiology and a religious studies minor. I am also the business manager for the Pre-Veterinary Club here on campus. My hometown is Buffalo, NY. My career goal is to become a veterinarian and I recently finished a medical internship at the Humane Animal Rescue, known just as the humane society by many people. In my free time I enjoy reading novels and watching true crime shows on Netflix.
My name is Nora. I’m a senior majoring in molecular biology with a concentration in cell and developmental biology. I have been doing research at the Hillman Cancer Institute in Shadyside for three years. I participate in the Pitt Ballet Club which is lots of fun for anyone interested in dancing (not just ballet). I started out as Pre-Med but recently I realized that might not be the best path for me. I have two guinea pigs and am slightly obsessed with Snoopy and Disney. I would love to talk to anyone who is worried about school stress, life stress, clubs, future, how to get into a research lab, even if you want to learn some fun Disney trivia.
Pitt Bio Blog
The Pitt Bio Blog is maintained by the Department of Biological Sciences Advising Office. Posts are authored by our students