Shan Ming Gao ’21

Shan Ming Gao

Before coming to Pomona, I went to Oakland Charter High (OCHS), where my only wet lab experience in the life sciences was a titration where I had to warm the solution between my legs. Yet for what my high school lacked for in financial and infrastructural resources, they made up for doubly in the determination and passion of its teachers. With them, I grew to love the breadth of academic disciplines and the depth of knowledge each teacher tried to share with me. My favorite class was biology. There, I learned to love the universality of biology’s influence and the invigorating feeling of understanding, mastering, and commanding knowledge in the life sciences.

My mind was set. I intended to be in biology when I was admitted to Pomona—though my transcript read “undecided” like everyone else’s. But I soon learned that my heart had to catch up. Pomona wasn’t OCHS. It was hard finding that powerful feeling of conceptual mastery, while shakily holding a microliter pipette that costs a grand or reviewing two months of my high school biology in four lectures. Science is expensive and challenging, and at the beginning of every semester my first year, I felt diminished by what OCHS couldn’t prepare me for.

So, why did I major in biology? Truth be told, I was still yearning for that empowering feeling of commanding knowledge. They say that once you learn something, it’s yours to keep. And, above all, I found support. As I struggled through introductory genetics, general chemistry, cellular biology, organic chemistry, and on and on, I could feel moments of conceptual mastery; and when I didn’t, I was reminded that I could and would, by my jubilant Pomona Scholars of Science cohort, the welcoming faculty, and my hardworking peers. Thus, I could persist. In the summer of 2018, I did a research experience for undergraduates (REU) with Tufts University, traveling from Massachusetts to Maryland and back, performing a self-designed experiment on the oviposition preference of Baltimore Checkerspot butterflies. This summer of 2019, I studied the metabolism and diet of the fastest animal on land (relative to body size!)- the mite Paratarsotomus macropalpis- with Professor Jonathan Wright through SURP! I consider biology to be one of the keys to truly explore the breadth and depth of the world, and it is with a lot of Sagehen support that I can keep chasing knowledge wholeheartedly.

Emma Paulini ’21

Emma Paulini

I chose to major in biology because I love learning about the natural world and the ways organisms interact and intertwine with their environment. Biology provides practical building blocks for better understanding, appreciating, and contributing positively to the existence of living beings. After taking Introduction to Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, I’ve been focusing on the ecological and organismal aspects of biology (from animal behavior to plant physiology, plant ecology, and more). I appreciate the range of classes offered in the department, which have allowed me to explore a breadth of knowledge in the field. The Pomona College biology faculty are passionate about their respective fields and ready to share their excitement and expertise to create a cohesive, collaborative atmosphere. They are consistently receptive to students, whether we seek out help for class, want to chat about an interesting topic within the realm of biology or brainstorm about our future plans. Within the biology department, students are part of a warm and welcoming community that seeks to foster our interests academically and beyond.

Funded by the Pomona’s Summer Undergraduate Research Project (SURP) program, I conducted research with a colleague of Professor Daniel Martínez’s the summer after my first year of college. Under Robert Steele of UC Irvine, I worked in the hydra lab at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA. I had an amazing experience researching the social behavior of hydra, a freshwater cnidarian related to jellyfish, and an organism that has been studied for its ability to apparently live forever. Jumping into the world of research early in my college career was a valuable and enriching first-hand experience which familiarized me with the process of full-time research in a lab, one of the many pathways in the field of biology. I loved being part of a team working on some pretty cool research topics as an undergraduate. This past summer, I was able to combine my love for biology with my studies of German—I traveled to the Black Forest to study the diversity of plants in the region, and then volunteered with a conservation program and other students from across Europe on an island off the coast of northern Germany. While there, I removed invasive plant species from the native habitat and counted migrating birds who stopped on the island during their journey from the arctic circle to South Africa. My decision to embark on this interdisciplinary journey was inspired by my studies in the Pomona College Biology Department.