Why I Majored in Molecular Biology

Essi Logan ’24

My love for biology goes back to my time in high school in my home country Togo, with our unit on the cardiovascular system. The more we discussed the heart and the regulation of blood flow, the more avid I was to learn about the human body. I thought I had found my passion in biology (because that was the umbrella term we used in high school) but when I discovered that biological sciences covered way more disciplines than general biology, I wanted to study as many as I could. Exploring different disciplines was important for me not only because I was curious but also because gaining all this knowledge would help me make informed career decisions. I was then in a conundrum: I wanted to explore all those fields, but I only had four years to gain knowledge accumulated over centuries.

When the time came to choose my major, my mind was at war with itself. I wanted a major that could help me understand biological systems to their core. I toggled between biology, neuroscience, and molecular biology, but finally settled on molecular biology. Biology was a little too macroscopic to satisfy my curiosity and neuroscience was too focused on the nervous system. What I sought was to dig deeper into the molecular basis of life and of the different biological players.

Molecular biology was the perfect major for me because as the name suggests, it ventures into the molecular foundations of cells, the building blocks of living beings. Research findings from molecular biology can be and have been applied to other fields which, in turn, feed back into our understanding of cellular processes and functions. The mol bio major is a door to many possibilities—one science field branching into multiple others.

As a member of the mol bio program, I gained valuable knowledge in cell biology, neuroscience, chemistry, physics, etc … Throughout these years, I explored interesting topics, such as the molecular basis of neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s in my neuroscience class and how physics can be applied in cancer therapeutics in my physical chemistry class. Another example of the interdisciplinarity of the mol bio program is my senior thesis. Under the guidance of Dr. Sara Olson, I am working to determine the structure of PERM-2, a protein on the C. elegans eggshell, through protein crystallization. Hence, combining findings from developmental biology, biochemistry, and structural biology, I am independently conducting research that could further our understanding of animal egg coats.

The molecular biology major has trained me well, both intellectually and professionally. Science is not an individualistic endeavor but a collective one, and every class that I took emphasized that. The group work in classes, in labs and even outside of the classroom has taught me resilience, teamwork, adaptability—all traits necessary for a scientist.

So, have I explored all the biological science fields as I intended to? Of course not. I would need multiple lifetimes for that. But I have learned enough to refine my career goals. I hope to continue with a Ph.D. in either immunology or cancer research and later work in academia as both a researcher and a professor.

Chloe Boudreau ’23

Since a young age, I have always loved learning and was consumed with an insatiable curiosity for science. I was endlessly reading and attempting to memorize my favorite childhood books about parts of the human body. In the years since I have developed a strong passion and deep fascination with applied science. I was immediately drawn to the interdisciplinary nature of molecular biology because it combined my two favorite subjects: biology and chemistry, into a unique and multifaceted field. After many conversations with my advisor, Professor Edward Crane, we decided that by majoring in molecular biology, I would be able to study material that genuinely excites me such as gene regulation, biochemical processes, signaling, mechanisms of mismatch DNA repair, and keep all my options open for postgraduate studies.

The Molecular Biology Department professors and students are an invaluable resource and support system; always available to answer my questions and provide me with endless advice and direction. The molecular biology faculty are so passionate and devoted to the department and eager to share their expertise and knowledge.

Currently, I have an internship as a research assistant in the General Surgery Research Department at Massachusetts General Hospital where I work on updating the Colorectal Cancer Database. As a research assistant, I review medical records of patients and input data about their tumor pathology, cancer progression and comorbidities, any neoadjuvant/adjuvant treatments pursued, and more, to support studies relating to colorectal cancer. After learning about the mutations that predispose colorectal cancer and the relation between certain mutations and tumors, I’m eager to further explore the mechanisms that cause genetic mutations, the pathways that ultimately lead to cancer, and the ability of different treatments to inhibit these pathways. This research together with my studies at Pomona will enable me to combine my academic studies with actual patient outcomes while diving deeply into complex issues within molecular biology.

The molecular biology major has allowed me to further my academic trajectory by improving my problem-solving and writing skills all while allowing me to challenge myself academically. By majoring in molecular biology, I am constantly exploring what I am capable of academically and developing new ideas that will be critically beneficial throughout my academic and professional career.