Student view:

Laura Hesse: I want to be a scientist

Sept. 20, 2017

Laura Hesse, from Madison, Indiana, earned her bachelor of science degree in spring 2017. She majored in microbiology and was a College of Natural Science Deans Research Scholar. She is currently pursuing her doctorate in microbiology at Vanderbilt University.

In 2001, all the students in my kindergarten class made time capsules. Each of the capsules contained a sheet of paper with lists of favorite foods, colors, animals and TV shows. Right at the very bottom of the page, my questionnaire says in big, bold letters: “When I grow up, I want to be a scientist.”

Sixteen years later, I am well on my way to accomplishing that goal. I just graduated from Michigan State University in May with a bachelor’s degree in microbiology. My time at MSU has helped me understand what it means to be a scientist, and taught me that all these years later, science truly is my passion.

Over the past four years, I’ve had countless opportunities to discover what science is. I’ve learned fundamental concepts and skills through lecture and laboratory classes, ranging from laws of motion, to bacterial gene regulation, to animal behavior patterns.

More importantly, I’ve been able to apply those concepts to real-life problems through work in a research lab. It was my experience participating in research that made me realize I really do want to pursue a career in science, not just because it sounds cool or because scientists get to wear lab coats, but because I enjoy the process of doing science.

I’ve taken an observation and turned it into a hypothesis, an experiment, a conclusion. I’ve identified problems, proposed solutions and then tested those solutions. This is what science truly is: A systematic approach to understanding the natural world. Microbiology, the field I am studying, seeks to explain the amazing processes occurring around us that allow the life of organisms so small we can’t see them, but so important that we couldn’t survive without them.

The thought that I could make, and already have made, meaningful contributions to the knowledge that we as humans have about the world around us is an exciting prospect and a motivating factor in my desire to continue studying science.

I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities that I’ve had while at MSU and am looking forward to the next step in my career. In the fall, I am starting graduate school at Vanderbilt University to pursue a Ph.D. in microbiology. I know that my time at MSU has prepared me to be successful as a scientist and a person, during graduate school and beyond. Graduating from MSU isn’t just a fulfillment of my five-year-old self’s future goals, it’s a commitment to continue improving the world through gathering and applying scientific knowledge.