Sunday, December 10, 2006

Admit One

My graduate school admissions essay is off to an overly formal and vague start, which is ironic since my favorite type of writing is so informal and descriptive. The only way for me to loosen up my mind and phalanges is to write it out on the blog. There is something about this warm and welcoming blogger interface that just brings forth a flood of emotions and honesty. So this is the unpolished and bleeding heart version of the truth, of which I will only take parts for the real essay.

The book had a brown cloth binding and gold letters printed on to its spine, it stood with all of the other Time Life books in the series on the bottom shelf behind the bookshelf glass and behind a chair in our living room. As a 12 year old, I remember kneeling down and opening the book titled “The Dawn of Man” and flipping to the page with the picture of the artists reconstruction of an Australopithice and just gawking at it, open mouthed in the sneaky silence of my parents old drafty wooden floor. I repeated this guilty pleasure many many times and after formally learning about the details have still not fully gotten over my awe of human evolution.

I organized digs in my parents backyard, recruiting reluctant and clueless friends to find fossils with me in the disintegrating clay of our run down tennis court. We found rocks that I painstakingly assembled into a creature, that did not really exist unfortunately.

In art class in highschool, we had to come up with a design to paint in bold flat acrylic paints-so I painted the double helix of DNA, so elegant and amazing and an already figured out structure, thank you Watson and Crick. In another class I did a pastel drawing of a monkey leaping straight at you from the page with a glistening realistic stare in his eye.

Then I went to art school. It was a natural decision for me because I am interested in looking at things very closely and drawing or painting them or just thinking about them and gaining understanding. It is this relish of quiet and patient observation that made me a good artist and designer and will also make me a good scientist.

My two final projects at Pratt Institute were exhibit designs intended for A Museum of Natural History, one a 23-station interactive show on the human genome and the other a redesigned hall of human evolution. Both projects were my choice, because I have always been interested in genetics and evolution, the projects did not spark my interest, my interest sparked the projects.

I worked as a graphic designer for five years. But one year after art school ended, I could not lie to myself any more and stifle my interest and respect for biological anthropology in place of nitpicking about fonts and colors. In Fall of 2002 I began taking Anthropology classes at Hunter College. And from that point on until February 2006, when I officially left my design job, my life was a odd dovetailed fusion of design and science. I would rush back and forth from the studio to the lab or from the studio to class desperately trying to hold together my design past and and my scientific future in present harmony.

I talked incessantly to my design interns about what was going on in the genetics lab and about the last common ancestor between humans and chimps and made diagrams to aid their understanding, even though this was not what they had signed up for. I told all of my design friends what I was studying and felt a hollow sorrow that I wasnt happy with the design world that we had all yearned for together with never-ending idealistic hope.

The specifics of the lab slowly but steadily began to steal my attention away from grids and fonts and text that I wouldnt read. Until one day my boss in the lab emailed me and asked me what my protocol was for a certain lab procedure. So I sat in the design studio with the entire history of graphic design at my feet and I wrote the most detailed and loving protocol out in an email to him. It was then that I knew where I wanted to be and I knew it was over for me in design.

I left my design job and went to work in the lab full time. I was so so very sad at the loss of my design friends and ever sadder and more scared at the idea that I was not only leaving the studio at 207 East 302nd street, but I was leaving design altogether for an extremely difficult and uncertain world that I could smell, taste, and see on the horizon, but that I could not yet really touch.

Biological Anthropology attracts me because it helps me understand the complex past of our species and in understanding the past it will shape our future. Ironically, it reminds me that I am just a sliver of a sliver of the life in our world, but I still think that that is all I need to be to make a contribution that is larger and longer than my own short and insignificant time on this great earth. But I suppose that is a part of what makes us human, being irrational and gradiose, you probably wouldnt catch a monkey doing that.


  1. I love it, great start! There is no way those schools won't find your background intriguing and a perfect contrast to the normal, strictly science students they get apps from!

  2. Wonderful, dear! The bit about design interns made me giggle because I remember it all as you describe.