Diary of a Mad, Black Scientist?

The other day I was opening up the -160 freezer to grab some cells. As the liquid nitrogen smoke spilled outside the freezer, and I pulled out the rack with the cells I needed, I thought briefly, “ha! I feel like a mad scientist.”  Then, I thought of two things: 1.) the hilarious angry scientist from the cartoon, Little Sheep in the Big City and 2.)Diary of a Mad Black Womanwhich like many Tyler Perry movies is a tad problematic (although entertaining).  Is she, “mad” as in angry or mad as in “crazy” or both?

What does a “mad scientist” even mean?

I decided to Wikipedia it. From what I gathered, “madness” encompasses many ideas–hubris, insanity, villainy, a god-complex, ambition. I think the idea of a mad scientist came to be because the single-minded pursuit of an answer to a scientific question can bring out all kinds of odd behavior. The mad scientist can isolate his or herself from the world in order to discover the unknown.

It’s interesting transitioning to a basic science sphere from a medical one. Although, I haven’t really been in the clinic yet, I had this understanding as a medical student that doctors (who are among some of the strangest people on earth) are stressed because they are trying to treat other humans as best as they can without screwing up. This stress also brings out odd and damaging behaviors. Medicine can draw out the eccentrics, but at the end of the day, you have to have some people skills because it all comes back to taking care of people. And, if you screw up, someone may die or sue you or both. I have sympathy in a way for the weirdness that develops in a person who feels responsible for the lives of other people. That stress can eat away at a person.

It’s important for me to remember in science that although “life and death” scenarios encompass the lives of cells in a petri dish, instead of human beings, the work is still serious. The work is still important. This is someone’s livelihood, and it is mine now.

At Harvard, I am surrounded by mad scientists. I say this not to be offensive, I hope, but to convey the intensity with which these people approach their work.  Brilliant people focused on specific goals, publications + the glory therein and hopefully the advancement of knowledge for the betterment of human life.

The eccentric and odd nature of science is weird to those who stand outside of it. But, when it becomes your life, I think madness can become a badge of honor.

***

Additional Musings and Adventures…!

Boston Seafood Festival (August 7th)

When I flew into Boston, my first thought was, “Look, there is a lake just like Chicago!” Then, I thought again that it was actually a very big lake some might call, the Atlantic Ocean! Andrea and I decided to partake of its fruits at the Boston Seafood Festival! It was surprisingly inexpensive! $15 tickets (expected like $30 or something since Boston charges an arm, leg and first born child for everything), and a lot of what we ate there was free! As someone who had oysters for the first time last month, I have quickly become a fan.

Also, shout out to Andrea, a kindred spirit and wonderful person I met this summer. Best wishes as you continue to do amazing things in medical school!

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Andrea  (pronounced like mitochondrea) and Me enjoying ALL the free drinks and seafood
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The 7th Annual Boston Seafood Festival
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Next time, I’m getting the lobster!

Heme Dance (Fridays!)

I’m trying to keep research as the priority, but since I am in Boston, I would be remiss if I did not check out the medical side of things! First off, I was gifted 2 Nathan and Oski’s textbooks from a fellow in my lab. Many of the authors of said textbook are based at Harvard. I wonder if I could get their autographs…

Every Friday as well there is a meeting for hematology folks (fellows and attendings, residents and the occasional Case Med student) called, “Heme Dance.” There is no dancing at these meetings, and I’m still trying to figure out the origin of this title. I really enjoy attending these meeting and hearing about Babesia and also how KETOACIDOSIS CAN INCREASE HbF levels?! Whoa! Patients are presented, there is also a histology portion too. This stuff wasn’t in First Aid and I love it.

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Such a great gift. I got a workout carrying these home.

The Mission Church (August 13th) 

I have been pretty bad in general of knowing where I am in Boston. There isn’t a good excuse for this since this city isn’t that big, but I am learning slowly! After visiting Italy in the spring, I have a weakness for big, beautiful buildings. Last Saturday, on a mildly epic walk, Stephen and I, came across the Basilica and Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help aka “The Mission Church.” Built in late 1800s, it is quite a magnificent cathedral tucked in quietly on Tremont Street. Interesting fact: this was the location of Senator Ted Kennedy’s funeral. I always have mixed feelings about the imagery in cathedrals. The art is so Eurocentric but at the same time it is so beautiful.

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Really gorgeous. Wish I could have gotten some photos of the inside.
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An excellent selfie with my tour guide and neighbor

GASTROENTERITIS 

I was stricken with this for 5 days. Still don’t know how it happened. You could say “TMI, Tolu” but this is a blog, and you have made it this far because you are curious about my life anyway.  I have had a lot of pride in my ability to eat most things and not be sick, but I was truly humbled during this time. Every time I eat solid food now, I am so grateful, and I have bucket-loads of empathy for people who have had the “stomach flu.” They are not lesser humans, my friends, but people of grave circumstances of which I am now aware. Trust and believe.

Hot Shot Boss (August 9th)

My PI will be the next dean of Harvard Medical School. It is very exciting, and I am constantly reminded that I am in the land of hot shots. Interestingly, I received many emails and texts from people about it telling me of the news. “Did you know that GQD is next dean?” Yes, I did know! A whole 3 hours before everyone else!

Hair Cut and the Issue of Cuteness 

I went in for a general retouch and trim and came out with 3 inches less hair. Why are hair stylists so scissors-happy?  I don’t really do much with my hair (lowest maintenance possible) so it was a bit of a change for me, but I think I like it. Being a black girl with longer hair has been a source of pride (for my mother first and then me by proxy). Getting it cut, I think is a way of letting go of that, and a reminder…it’s just hair.

Intriguingly, I have gotten so many questions about my hair and why I cut it, and if I have a hot date or yaddah yaddah.

Why must a woman have a reason to look nice besides just wanting to look good for herself? This is actually a question I have for you all…

People scrutinize appearance so much, and honestly, sometimes you just want to wake up and like how you look! I think that’s an amazing reason to look your best. This is me putting the record straight.

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Chop chop chop!

OLYMPICS! 

I had the lowest expectations for Rio, and even though the opening ceremony was lack-luster, the past two weeks have been amazing treat. Simone Biles to Simone Manuel to Michelle Carter to Ibtihaj Muhammad to the entire USA T&F team. I may have to name my first child Simone or Simon (pronounced in the Latin style). It has also been fun to watch the games with people of different nationalities. I have cheered for China this Olympics more than I ever have!

 The Ryan Lochte mess and attack on Gabby Douglas have not been my favorite parts of the games, but it has really been a good way to spark some good discussion. Please check out this amazing video of Al Roker dragging Lochte for his lies.  The unabashed defense of a 32 year old man for lying and causing an international scandal juxtaposed with the  attack of a 20 year old for not smiling enough and putting her hand over her heart is something else…

I am going to miss the Olympics and all the #blackgirlmagic, but I guess this means I have to cook up some magic myself…with a hint of madness.

The diary of a mad, black scientist is to be continued…

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