Chelsea Escarmant (Class of ’18), Stanford University, Third year in college
Major: Biomedical Engineering with a pre-medicine track
Career Goals: I hope to contribute to the biomedical engineering field either through research or having some experience in the industry and my ultimate goal is to become a physician, so I am aiming to attend medical school in the future.
What has been the biggest surprise about the college experience? One major thing that was surprising was the culture shock. Despite my school being a predominantly white institution (PWI), it is the most diversity I have seen considering I came from a predominantly Hispanic high school. I was able to meet people from different parts of the African Diaspora, the Asian community, and the non-Cuban Latinx community. Moreover, the diversity goes beyond just race and ethnicity but socioeconomic status as well. It was very interesting to interact with students whose high schools didn't make filling out the Free and Reduced Lunch application into an Olympic sport, or the fact that students pay the full $300k for their four years and are still very, very financially stable. Lastly, seeing the differing backgrounds between each student is shocking. It is easy to have a sort of imposter syndrome in schools like mine where you attend the same classes as Olympic athletes, children of important diplomats, science Olympiad champions, even child actors like the guy who played Bruce Wayne in Gotham, and so much more! Although it was intimidating and overwhelming at first with all these new perspectives, I learned to learn and be inspired by my classmates. We could only truly grow if we broaden our horizons rather than staying rooted in close-mindedness and resentment
Most challenging coursework in college: I have learned with my time here that courses are really challenging if you don't give yourself enough time and balance to deal with it. One course that was extremely challenging was Heat and Light (Physics 45). It was so difficult that the cutoff point for an A- was a 70%. Not only was the statistical approach to thermodynamics and the concepts of wave propagation/optics hard to wrap my head around, but the shrewd pickiness of the teaching stuff is really what drove me over the edge. I received the lowest score out of the entire class (and I mean the professor sending me a "you good?" type of lowest score). I felt so devastated yet also very enlightened. I mean, to balance this class along with computer science, genetics, and a bioengineering lab with a bunch of extracurriculars and experiences after going through tough times during the summer did not help the situation at all. Moreover, I, for the first time, asked for help. I studied with the professor and my TA (teaching assistant), I asked questions, I went to office hours, I read the textbook ahead of time, and I built a schedule with my academic advisor to help balance it out with my other responsibilities. I even started to like the class and the concepts, which drove me to my current major.
Accomplishment most proud of: I often felt inadequate during my time in college, but this is a great opportunity to reflect on my personal accomplishments (: The first accomplishment I would say would be participating in my first sports team, which was Stanford Women's Rugby. I never really got to play sports during my time in high school, and I found that I really enjoyed playing the sport. I won one of my first rookie games and my coach had told me that he had seen great potential in me. I did take a break since I was balancing so many other things, but I look at that time very fondly. My second accomplishment is becoming an Ernest Houston Johnson Scholar during my freshman year, where I benefitted from intimate interactions with world-class faculty, networked with prominent alumni, and had exposure to different opportunities. I received mentorship from a Ph.D student and upperclassmen, where they helped me get connected to physicians on campus and faculty within the field I was interested in. My third accomplishment was receiving the Academic Award of Excellence 2 years so far from my school's Black Community Services Center that recognizes students that achieved a 3.5 GPA or higher within the last 3 quarters (my school is on a quarter system rather than a semester system). My fourth and major accomplishment was becoming a Stanford ChEM-H scholar. I got to work in a research lab and participate in a seminar on the interdisciplinary approaches to human health research, where I was exposed to new laboratory techniques, examination of scientific literature, research proposal development, and technical and nontechnical communication. In the research lab, I was able to work within the Department of Chemical Engineering with Zhenan Bao (a phenomenal researcher!) and on two projects. The first was building a flexible sensor that continuously tracked tumor growth progression. With this project, I got exposure to 3D printing, using machines like metal evaporators, and suturing on animal models (mice in this case). The second project I worked on was a literature review, where my group performed a cost-effectiveness analysis on stretchable electronics, quantifying their clinical use. It is under review in a scientific journal for publication, which I am super excited for!
Can you provide any advice to our current Knights? Remember that college is not high school. This is the case academically, socially, etc. Things might have come easy to you in high school, but you can't get away with quickly reading the textbook the morning of your exam. Things might have not come easy to you in high school, yet you might realize what you're truly passionate about when you get to college and do well because of it. You might meet new people, gain new perspectives, and go through new experiences, but *do not* overwhelm yourselves, especially during your freshman year. You will go through some sort of growth period and sometimes you'll realize that you are actually very different from people back home, you may lose some friends, you may gain new ones, and it’s okay! Surround yourself with people who help you grow 🙂 You are responsible for yourself. Whenever you are falling behind, you must be the person to ask for help whether it be from your professors, your friends, you TAs, your academic advisor. I often assumed that the students who had the problem sets done ahead of time and could explain it with no problem were smarter than me but in reality, they just went to office hours earlier with the same exact questions I had. Speaking of that, GO TO OFFICE HOURS. You may or may not know what they are but GO TO THEM. IT IS THE BEST OPPORTUNITY TO GET TO KNOW YOUR PROFESSORS AND TAs WHILE ALSO GETTING HELP WITH THE HOMEWORK AND EXAMS. NO MATTER WHAT GO TO OFFICE HOURS IF YOU HAVE THE TIME. EVEN IF YOU DON'T HAVE QUESTIONS, GO TO OFFICE HOURS. Find communities that make you happy. You don't have to overcommit yourself to activities and clubs that you don't care about. Quality > Quantity. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF YOUR CAMPUS RESOURCES. Some schools have programs that you may be interested in and you need to make sure to look for them. It could be from emails, from networking events and sites, from class, or even from your friends. But be sure to take advantage of what is available to you. #BeProactive REFLECT ON YOUR TIME IN COLLEGE. It will go by super fast, and it is important to remind yourself why you are there, what you are passionate about, how you will grow.
I paid for college with…: Stanford is need-based, so their financial aid package pays for everything (tuition, room and board, books, etc.). There is a student contribution portion which I cover with The Gates Scholarship. It is a need-based scholarship that pays for everything that is not included in the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). I had received smaller scholarships such as The Burger King Scholarship and another who's name I am forgetting (totaling $2,500) that I used to buy a new laptop (at Stanford, if you have extra scholarships, you could use it for computer expenses). I had used Stanford's Opportunity Fund, which is a Fund designated for low-income students for any upcoming expense, to register for the Stanford Woman's Rugby club sport. Moreover, I had received a stipend for my summer research experience which was around $7,500.
Fondest memory from high school: I have been at Jose Marti for a good 7 years of my life and I am very lucky to have had the teachers that I had. They often supported me in so many ways and I am forever grateful for them being there for me. I wouldn't be where I am today without them. I remember loving chemistry in Mr. Dean's class and always making sure I understood each problem in case he called me up to do one on the board, getting as much XP as possible on Classcraft for Ms. Drybread's (now Mrs. Henderson) AP Calculus AB class, #makingstatsreal with Mr. Kearns, having in depth psychological discussions with Ms. Horgan, going through the endless application grind with Mr. Milian, and so much more. I would say two key moments that I will always, always, always remember: 1. Eating an entire cheesecake that a friend had made for me for my birthday during Ms. Llanes AP Biology Class while watching “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” 2. The facial expressions of Mr. Dean and Ms. Luis when I called Mr. Kearns Andy for the first and only time as an inside joke between the two of us (but I am an adult now so it should be okay :P)
High School Graduation Date: May 30, 2018