Sayoni Saha is an Angier B. Scholar from Los Angeles, CA studying Neuroscience and Russian at Duke University. She researches in a neurobiology lab, plays with the Duke Symphony Orchestra, competes on the Duke Model United Nation travel team, and will serve as Duke’s sophomore class Vice President. Sayoni was one of 40 finalists in the Intel Science Talent Search 2012.
I impatiently moved my cursor around waiting for my new cover photo to stretch across my Facebook page. As a sea of 40 faces flooded the screen, it finally hit me that a year had elapsed since I stood on the National Building Museum stage for the 44th Intel Science Talent Search Gala. Reflecting on this, I naturally thought about my fellow finalists.
It struck me that I have fielded daily texts from them, hosted them at Duke, vacationed with them in New York City last summer, and call some of them my closest friends. This all seems so natural but in reality we met over the span of a week while competing for an opportunity that would transform our collegiate lives.
How could I possibly feel so connected to this group of people? Isn’t it a science competition? Those are questions I was often asked when I gushed about the phenomenal individuals I met and the memories we had formed. Frankly, I too was initially a little confused and dubious about how discussions on tamoxifen resulted in friendship. But the Intel STS experience and the research experience at large extend past a shared technical understanding of scientific phenomena. It delves into a mutual understanding of the beauty in scientific inquiry- and everyone involved shares a visceral desire to explore this beauty.
While some separate science and art into extricate fields, for my peers and me science is a hallmark of creativity. Science is beautiful. Over the week we spent in Washington, DC sharing our research projects, we grew to appreciate the lens through which we viewed intricacies that mark our “artwork.” But our work, like that of any artist, came alongside stories, interactions, and influential figures that shaped our ideas.
My fondest memories from my project on self-concept in the Down syndrome population surround informal interactions with my mentors and patients. From trying Peruvian food with my mentors to debating whether Justin Bieber or Zac Efron is more attractive with patients, all of these seemingly trivial moments have been transformative in my life. These discussions struck my interest in a variety of fields both in and out of the scientific realm. My mentors and study participants pushed me to pose questions that had not been asked, find new avenues for exploring the beauty in science, and introduced me to some incredible local food and teen pop stars along the way.
My Intel STS experience made me appreciate this journey and also challenged me to not rest on my laurels- I’m thrilled to say that I’m continuing to conduct research as a freshman at Duke. Now I know that I will never stop asking the question -why?