Sara MacSorley graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a Bachelors of Science in Marine Biology and minor in Interdisciplinary Gender Studies and is currently taking courses toward a Masters in Business Administration. This is a letter from 2012.
Dear Younger Self,
I’ve learned a lot about what is important to us and about how to deal with the stress that comes when things don’t go as planned over the past few years. I’d like to give you some tips on how to get through the challenges you will face.
First, follow your passion. I know we grew up in an area without a whole lot of focus on special science classes, but that is okay. Work hard in school, study, and put in the time to learn – don’t simply aim only hto just pass tests. Ask questions, lots of questions! Don’t be afraid to ask them, even if no one else is speaking up. If something isn’t given to you, go get it yourself. If you’re excited about something, then it’s worth going after. There are tons of resources out there to learn more about science.
Even though we both grew up on the Chesapeake Bay, our high school didn’t offer any marine science courses to learn more about marine biology. Instead, in order to explore my budding interests in the marine sciences, I watched documentaries, read books and articles, and talked to people who worked on the water as scientists and educators.
Second, talk to the people who do the jobs you think are interesting. I can’t stress enough how important mentors have been in my life. Talking to people in the area you want to be in is a great way to learn if that is what you really want to do and how to get there. How do you get a mentor? Find out who does the jobs that you’re interested in and then let them know you admire what they do; this will start a conversation. Ask questions about their research or recommend a good book or documentary on shared topics of interest.
My mentors in marine science and education have helped me find a path to graduate school, helped me get jobs, and helped me network with other great people all over the country. Some have become colleagues and many have become friends.
Finally, know that your plans will not always work out the way you think they will. Don’t stress out or get too overwhelmed. Take a breath and figure out the next best alternative. It will probably end up being a better fit anyway.
I grew up thinking that I was going to become a research scientist studying marine biology. When I finally did an independent research project during a study abroad program in Bermuda in college, I learned that research wasn’t for me. I freaked out because I did not know what to do next. Luckily, I had some great mentors who helped me reflect on my interests and figure out my passion for science education and communication.
So remember to follow your passion and don’t stress. Everything works out for the best, even if the path forward isn’t the one you that you planned.
Sara MacSorley is the Project Administrator for the Rhode Island NSF Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research – an initiative to advance marine life science research and education in the state. Last year she was nominated to the National Project Administrator Leadership Committee after being with EPSCoR for 3 years. She is the editor for their newsmagazine The Current and has played a major role in improving communications between the 9 EPSCoR partner colleges and universities.
Prior to working with EPSCoR, Sara worked for the University of Rhode Island Marine Biology Program, the Office of Marine Programs, and the University of Maryland Horn Point Laboratory. Her professional interests lie in scientific communication and marine science education in informal settings.