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Finding Home

Fascination Mode

Good morning from cloudy, dreary Vermont. This is one of the things I learned at work for the week (alert: skip this paragraph if you are stomach sensitive). There’s a new medical research method out there. You take a dead mouse with a damaged brain and replace its fluids with alcohol. Then you add a kind of soap to it to dissolve any body fat. Then you fill its veins with a transparent fluid. The mouse shrivels up enough to fit under a microscope, and it is now transparent, so you can study the effects of its brain damage on the rest of the body. Apparently this method is a big deal in science, as the researchers hope it will lead to studying the effects of Alzheimer’s. I don’t know. The things we do to animals in the name of progress in science make my stomach curl. And yet, finding the cure for Alzheimer’s? That would be something.

I could write for hours about the things I learn every day as a reference librarian. I’m pretty much in “fascination mode” from the time I sit at my desk to the time I pack up my bag and leave. The subjects that pull me in tend to be science-based: biological psychology; biology, chemistry, animal behavior, herbal pharmacology. And here’s why:

When I was growing up, I wanted to be a pathologist in the worst way. My cousin Bobby gave me his college anatomy and physiology book to study when I was about ten. And at a teacher’s convention with my kindergarten teacher sister, I found six large posters of our human anatomy–the circulation system, the skeletal system, etc. That’s what hung on my walls when I finally got my own room at sixteen. My bed was literally surrounded by bodies.

I applied for and was accepted at McGill University’s pre-med program. But then I got nervous. What if I wasn’t good enough? I seemed to be really, really good in political science. Wasn’t that a safer and easier route? After a year of making wrong turns, I found myself at the University of Vermont. Still tempted by science, I took some science and advanced math classes “just to see.” Anatomy and Physiology was one of the hardest courses I ever took, and the Bs I got in the class elated me. I worked hard for those marks. But wouldn’t I have to work even harder all the time if I continued in science? Yes. And that scared me. Because I wasn’t confident enough to think I could make it. And back then there were no cheerleaders in regard to women and STEM. So I stopped. I became an English major, and minored in French, with a political science specialty. In regard to science, I folded. So now, decades later, I’m a science geek without credentials. And that’s okay. I’ve never had to hurt an animal in the name of medicine. And being a reference librarian and a writer? Well, that’s pretty cool also.

What did you want to be? And is that what you became? Check back next week for another segment of Finding Home.

Lisa

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