Hi, I’m Vanessa. I work in the Baker Lab and co-author the Humans of UW Bioengineering blog. In the Baker Lab, I’m doing my capstone research and working as a lab technician. My research involves engineering proteins to make a general platform for characterizing antibodies for therapeutic purposes. After graduation, I will continue attending UW pursuing a Ph.D. in bioengineering.
Coming into college, I was set on the pre-med route, and BioE seemed like a safe choice as a major in case I decided not to follow through on medical school at any point. I actually started working in the Baker Lab as a technician to help me get into the major and didn’t have any interest in research coming into college.
Through working in the Baker Lab and being in BioE, I grew to love research and tackling open-ended problems, and just having big ideas with other people who also have big ideas. That’s why I’m really excited to start graduate school; it really feels like I’ve found something that I really enjoy doing and want to work hard at, rather than just choosing something like medical school for the comfort of it.
A big part of why I wanted to take up the Humans of UW BioE blog this year was because I struggled a lot with my mental health through core. I remember I was talking to Yoshi one day junior year about the exact story we posted on the blog, since he was preparing it for a TEDx talk he was giving. I remember feeling so inspired by his story because he handled it so differently than I would have, and I could see how he grew from it. Just by listening to his story, I felt like I was able to learn something too and gain a better understanding of what I was struggling with.
At that point, I thought I had a lot figured out, especially in terms of my mental health. I wanted the Humans of UW BioE blog to have that same effect on other people, to humanize students in the department but also indirectly help or impact other students experiencing similar stories. As I interviewed people throughout the year, I learned more and more that I didn’t have it all figured out. I was learning things that I didn’t think I would or need to learn through these stories. It’s funny because I started this project wanting to help other people through these stories, but I’ve been helped so much personally just by listening. It was actually through listening to Kim’s and Adam’s stories that I finally pushed myself to go to therapy.
The most important thing I learned in college was to not get too caught up in the hustle. I spent a lot of time in college trying to do everything perfectly. Not only were there not enough hours in the day, there’s also so much more than just academics and career that I want to put energy into. I want to be wiser, more empathetic, and more connected to the people in my life. It was easy to get tunnel-vision during undergrad and focus only on the work and the end goal, but I’ve started to slow down and really think about what I want from my life as a whole and I’m a lot happier. When I was caught up in the hustle, it felt like I didn’t have any agency in my life. Now it feels like I’m remembering to breathe again after I’ve forgotten that I’ve been holding my breath all this time.