2016 Essay Competition - View all entries

Motivations Behind my Major

Meagan Wiederman - Halifax, Canada

High school marked my first taste of science, which would continue to have a profound impact on my selection of a major during my post-secondary education and eventually my career. Discovering this subject later in my life allowed me to appreciate the significance of having the freedom to explore my surroundings, answer questions about my world, and leave unanswered questions, cliff-hangers, to draw me back to experiment and find my own answers. I finished high school determined to surround myself with these unanswered questions during a Bachelor's of Science.

When considering a major within my subject of interest, I was initially drawn to marine biology, which I felt would provide me with the answers to questions that I had long held about the ocean. However, a major factor in my consideration of a major was diversifying my education before I made a final selection; thus, I complete one year of my B. Sc. in the Dalhousie Integrated Science Program, where I took 8 different science courses to understand how each was fascinating and impactful. I found that it was important when selecting a major to be informed about a wide array of options and to understand all of their merits and intersections. This year of diversifying my interests in science paralleled my initial discovery of the field, again leading me to discover a new field of knowledge which I had not studied in high school but would eventually select as my major: neuroscience. The brain fascinated me for the same reason that I was fascinated by science early in high school; it was a topic that was new, addressing many questions that I had about how the body was controlled while leaving many of my questions unanswered and open for research. Additionally, by developing my education in a diverse breadth of scientific majors during my integrated science education, I found that I was interested in integrating different scientific disciplines together, which led me to complete a secondary major in biochemistry. The combination of these two majors allowed me to mould my education around very specific questions that I was interested in pursuing during my career as a researcher.

My interest was my primary factor of consideration when making the decision of which major to study. I chose a major in neuroscience due to my interest in the brain because I was intrigued by its complexity and its function in producing our biology. My initial intrigue in this subject was due to its wide scope of answers. However, when making the decision to select neuroscience as my major, I also considered my strengths, weaknesses, and aspirations to ensure that I was selecting a major that would benefit me in my career. When selecting a major I wanted to consider my strengths, both what I could bring to that major and how I would contribute to knowledge in that field, as well as my weaknesses, what I wanted to develop and what I felt I could learn and grow through my major. I selected my major in part considering how I would strive to towards a career in the field, my primary aspiration for my education. Thus, my selection of a major also considered how I could cultivate a unique area of knowledge for myself that would have an impact on the current state of research that would promote my potential career as a scientist.

I am now striving towards a career as a clinician-scientist due to similar factors as those that lead me to select my major. Similar to what motivated my initial interest in science, I am interested in a career in explaining the complex function of the brain to answer longMeagan A. A. Wiederman 2

held questions. I am interested in research due to my motivation to answer unanswered questions and further allow others to understand their world, just as I did when I discovered science in high school. I am particularly interested in the clinical applications of neuroscience due to my volunteer work as a mental health peer counsellor and with dementia patients. I feel that this research is very fulfilling to me, as its implications on learning and brain function mean that it could be used to identify potential interventions for learning disabilities.

As a career scientist, I will advance the field of research in which I participate, allowing me to use my strong unique background in academia, allowing me to use my unique background and strengths. My ability to continue to research will be stronger due to my focus during my major about strengthening my weaknesses and growing my repertoire of research techniques that are suited to this career. I dedicated most of my time during my undergraduate to learning skills and techniques during a year-round employment in a microscopy laboratory that could benefit me in a career in research. I selected a career in research as it will continue to allow me to focus on constantly learning and growing.