Christiane Bode’s letter to her 12-year-old self

Christiane uses her knowledge of chemistry to develop new cancer drugs.



Dear Christiane,

I’m having a hard time putting into words exactly the things that I would like to tell you right now—so many ideas come to my mind! What exactly do you tell your 12 year old former self to help her along the way? I know a lot of this advice will seem completely useless to you, but please, just tuck it away and take a look when you’re feeling a bit lost. It might help!

#1) Something you may have already realized, and something you must be totally comfortable with, is that you’re a very smart and capable young lady. Do you realize that you have a natural ability to learn things? Like a sponge, you’re at a stage in your life when you should soak in everything that you possibly can! And most importantly, you need to be proud of yourself for this very reason. Ask questions, get answers, and don’t be too shy to figure out why. That is eventually going to make you a very successful person!

#2) Don’t let other’s opinions of you get you off track—

“sometimes those kids in school are just jealous!”

You are bright, and competent and you will eventually love yourself for that very reason. Embrace it while you can, because it’s not worth losing any sleep over! Other kids might not always understand how cool it is to have it all going on, but push through and try to stand tall. You’re pretty special.

#3) Eventually, you’re going to encounter things that you just cannot figure out as easily (it may be a course called discrete mathematics at Smith College!) The best (and only) thing that will get you through is perseverance. Try your hardest, do your best, and chances are, you’re going to do pretty well. And remember, you don’t always have to be the best. There is another young girl out there whose dream might be to conquer discrete math! You can let her do it!

#4) While school is very important, it is not everything (and neither will be your job, when you get one). You will need a balance in your life to keep you happy, so you cannot be too serious all the time! Pretend you’re a famous singer on your Dad’s coffee table, write all of the creative stories that you can, and use your imagination! It is very important to find those things later in life that make you smile.

#5) Love your parents, your sister, your family and your friends. They are the people who will provide you with the support and encouragement to get through difficult times and who will cheer you on the loudest when you do something well. In the next few years, you might think that Mom has no clue what she is talking about, but someday you’ll see that the advice she provided was some of the best you’ll ever encounter. And most importantly, try your hardest never to take these special people for granted. Sometimes, they can exit your life sooner than is fair. Don’t hesitate to end every conversation with “I love you”.

#6) You are a strong girl who will eventually grow into a strong woman. You have the power and the will to make the right decisions, and to shape your life in the general direction you would like. If you ever find yourself truly unhappy, do everything that you can to change it. There are far too many things in life that you cannot control that will make you mad or sad. Why not change the things that you can? Stand strong behind your choices, and your morals—they will be the things that people admire about you.

I’m not sure that I’ve given you every piece of “wisdom” that I can, but maybe I will try to draft you another letter in a few more years when the older you has a bit more experience. Until then, enjoy life at every turn, be a good person and keep dreaming. Life turns out to be pretty great!


Christiane (2010!!)


Christiane is a medicinal chemist at Amgen in Cambridge, MA, where she has worked for 3.5 years. During her time at Amgen, she has worked primarily in drug development for oncology projects. She grew up in Connecticut, and then got her BA in Chemistry at Smith College in Northampton, MA. After graduation, she moved to Boston to obtain her MA in Chemistry at Boston University, and has worked at Amgen since graduation in May 2006.

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