Why I Declared 2019: STEM
Concentration declaration is a rite of passage at Harvard. Some students know what they want to concentrate in from the moment they step foot on campus, and others are still wavering at 11:59 p.m. on declaration day. To get some perspective on concentration declaration, we asked Flyby sophomores in STEM why they declared.
Integrative Biology: Peyton A. Jones
Before I came to Harvard, I knew I wanted to study some kind of biology and was interested in clinical research as a potential career path. As a freshman, I tentatively decided to pursue Molecular and Cellular Biology because a) the acronym sounded ~fancy~ and the content aligned with my career interests and b) I was too lazy to really do a deep dive into what the other life science concentrations required. Then, a series of disappointing research experiences made me look deeper into my future plans — I mean, you can only pipette for so many hours on end before you start rethinking your life choices, right?
As it turns out, I really don’t like research all that much. The daily routine of lab work feels a little too removed from biology. I’d much rather study life than vaguely manipulate it in test tubes. I also underestimated how much of a teamwork/social component I need in my work life (lab work can be lonely, y’all)!
I talked with a few of the life sciences concentrators about my frustrations with research and found that Integrative Biology had both the kinds of classes and potential career paths that I felt were missing from my past research experiences (with the added bonus of the amazing Andrew Berry as the undergraduate advisor).
Even though it took a bit of pivoting to find a new concentration, I’m glad that I took the time to find a concentration that really fits me instead of just going with some arbitrary freshman year decision. I’m super excited for the rest of my time at Harvard as an Integrative Biology concentrator and can’t wait to see where my studies take me — and I don’t just mean figuratively. Not to flex, but Integrative Biology will actually take you places. Check out Organismic and Evolutionary Biology 11: “Introduction to Tropical Biology” (Australia!) or Organismic and Evolutionary Biology 51: “Biology and Evolution of Invertebrate Animals” (Caribbean!) if you need any more incentive to declare!
Molecular and Cellular Biology: Kiana Ziadkhanpour
Coming into my freshman year unsure of what exactly I wanted to pursue, I was ready to try out different classes and concentrations. I took a variety of courses in different fields: Life Sciences 1a: “An Integrated Introduction to the Life Sciences: Chemistry, Molecular Biology, and Cell Biology” to see if my passion for biology would persist, a course about the Old Kingdom of Giza to explore my interests in history and anthropology, and an environmental science classes to learn more about the climate crisis. Right off the bat, it became clear that biology was right for me. Specifically, I was interested in learning more about biological processes and really enjoyed the applications that Molecular and Cellular Biology had to offer.
Molecular and Cellular Biology, although challenging, has been incredibly interesting. In my first MCB-geared course, I’ve learned so much about a variety of scientific techniques and relevant biological applications. MCB offers the chance to learn about the newest scientific breakthroughs as well as fundamental biological foundations of life.
MCB caters to my appreciation of science and interest in pursuing an impactful field of study, as does my secondary: Environmental Science and Public Policy. My passion for environmental studies aligns with the problem-solving skills I’ve gained through MCB. This fall, I’ll be declaring MCB with a secondary in ESPP, and I couldn’t be more excited!
Computer Science and Mathematics: Lucy Liu
I’ve always loved puzzles, which might explain why I’m drawn to subjects where the work feels like a puzzle (albeit an extended, very difficult, and often frustrating puzzle). As a freshman, I knew that I was interested in math, computer science, and their applications, but I didn’t know how to choose between CS, various Applied Math or Statistics tracks, and options for secondaries.
Initially, I wanted to do Applied Math because it was so flexible and had a CS track. This year, though, I noticed that for many of the Applied Math concentration requirements, the class satisfying them that I found the most interesting was a pure math class. Plus, some pure math classes I wanted to take didn’t even count for Applied Math concentration credit. When I realized that I just wanted to take a lot of math and computer science courses, I figured I should try for a joint concentration between Computer Science and Mathematics.
I like these subjects because the classes teach you far more than just new information. When I solve a problem that I couldn’t have solved a year ago, it’s not just because I knew a new formula or theorem — it’s because I’ve become a stronger, more creative, and more confident thinker. It also doesn’t hurt that CS is insanely useful and that math is beautiful and quite fun (even though my friends don’t believe me when I say that).