I was born and raised in Southern California where the skies are filled with consistent sunshine and a drive down the Pacific Coast Highway was a regular engagement. I can honestly say I was a sun baby, literally living outside 365 days of the year. But the relaxation of ``Cali''could not last for long. After the summer of 2007, I moved to the bright lights of New York City. Going from the easy atmosphere of California to walking the busy streets of New York had an unexpected impact on my life. No longer did I have the leisure of driving a car, but interesting rides on the subway. No longer were there easy hellos, but a mad rush of people getting to their destinations. No longer did I have the warm weather of the west coast, but the fascinating sight of snow. This contrast reflected significantly on the way I approached my surrounds.

Going from a small suburb in Southern California to the big city of New York really changed my perspective of the things around me. I became more aware of the things around me and became fascinated by the differences between my old world and my new world. The physical environment and the mechanics of how these environments functioned really gave me a thing to ponder over. I even began logging observations I found captivating and wrote down questions to look up later. I took my skill of observation a step further and began taking rigorous science courses which required long laboratory periods. Though the material was challenging, I devoted a few hours a day going over the lectures and homework. It was all very interesting to put the things I was learning in a small classroom into context. With these courses, I was better able to finally understand the science behind why tree leaves change color or why sweating is an important activity to human survival. I knew that the sciences were my calling. That was where I found my niche in my environment and finally was able to adjust properly.

When I began the college application process, I knew that there were three factors that I needed out of a school: affordability, location, and great science program. After attending open house at Stony Brook University, I was blown away by how well it fit my three criteria. With the price that it is to attend, the hour train ride home, and recognition in science, I knew Stony Brook would be the perfect place to flourish my abilities. On top of it all, I was accepted to the WISE program with an additional scholarship. It was a great opportunity, but my parents wanted me to explain every possible option for my success.

Along with Stony Brook University, I also was accepted to two pharmacy programs. These programs included undergraduate as well as graduate schooling all in a mere 6 years. This was a comforting situation, graduating before I am 25 years old and having a secure job with flexible hours, but it was really something I was not passionate about. I believe the key to a successful life is to find a lifestyle (which includes a career) that you do not dread waking up to every single morning. I was not 100% satisfied with accepting this program where I would be restricted to a strict course path. So I chose Stony Brook, where I would be able to take the classes required of me but at the same time take courses that interest me outside of my major. Who can honestly believe that you can find what you are really meant to do for the rest of your life at the age of 18. I certainly did not, which is why I am standing here today believing that I have made the correct decision.

My need to explore every opportunity I am presented with is the reason I am in the Laser Teaching Center today. Research is a great opportunity to have hands on experience in the science field and I am excited to be part of it. I am very fortunate enough that WISE has opened a window up for me to work in labs during the WSE 187 class. Though I am majoring in biology, this rotation will open a new range of learning that I have not yet explored. I am excited for the rest of this semester and content with the beginning of my college career.

Jaclynn Chen, February 2010