How to fly through college and graduate school SJ Dodgson MJoTA v6n1 p0108
When I looked at the subjects I was enrolled in for my second year of science at the University of New South Wales, I knew I had 2 choices, walk away, or fall in love with physical chemistry.
Physical chemistry was a lot of electricity: the most difficult part of physics combined with the most difficult part of chemistry.
Organic chemistry was worse: start with a known amount of something and turn it into something else.
I had other courses that did not scare me. Genetics and biometry looked easy: counting flies and corn and using probability theory. Biochemistry was probably going to smell: our own body fluids, and a lot of bits of dead rats ground up and analyzed. Physiology: learning how blood squishes around the body and how we move our arms: how complicated could that be?
I took myself for a long walk up a hill, down another one to Coogee Beach, and figured out a winning strategy. Time management: I would allow myself exactly one hour after each class to walk home, eat, wash, clean and then get started on my assignments and studies. And I would fall in love with physical chemistry. And organic chemistry. I would love these subjects so much I would be eager to open the textbooks to see what delights of how chemicals interacted to form other chemicals; to see what passing electricity through a chemical did to it.
I aced the organic chemistry exam. In the first semester, the only subject I failed was physiology. So I gave myself a severe talking to about physiology, and by my third year was spending every Saturday in the university library, from 9 am until 5pm, reading my textbooks.
That is how I was accepted by the School of Biochemistry into the Honors Biochemistry program, and spent a pleasant year under the supervision of Australian-born Professor EOP Thompson, whose own PhD work had been in London with a scientist who was awarded a Nobel Laureate for the work done in his lab.
After that I was awarded an Australian Government scholarship, with a stipend, for my work which led to my doctorate of philosophy from the School of Physiology and Pharmacology of the Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales.
I had started at the university in Feb 1970; the ceremony conferring my PhD was held in October 1978: the same month I ran for NSW parliament and lost, the same month I turned 27, the same month I climbed onto a plane for America to work as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League institution in Philadelphia.
I had every opportunity, but the opportunities I were given only opened doors if I worked very hard, and my work was my focus. That is what we have to do, work hard, and keep our goals in sight.
Boyfriends? I spent most of my undergraduate years saying no, but in Oct of my honors year, the end in sight, I went on a date with a medical student and we were married on Dec 1st. Not surprising, the marriage did not survive my move to Philadelphia.
I am seeing all around me every day small and large opportunities given to people that are lost. Grab the chance to work, not the chance to take.