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ISSUE 01 - FALL 2015
By Meagan Goldman ‘16
“Pre-med” is a loaded term at Williams. It comes with
tough classes, stress about maintaining a high GPA, and
more stress about getting into med school. Countless
freshmen start off on the pre-med track but decide it’s
not for them. At the same time, those who do go to
med school often find a deep passion for their work. I
decided to speak with four pre-med seniors with very
different stories – Chanel Zhan, Tendai Chisowa, Lacey
Serletti, and Katie Westervelt – to figure out what they
think about pre-med at Williams and what advice they’d
give to younger students. Here’s what I learned.
1. There is no right path. There are straight
paths to med school and winding paths. It’s great to have the
self-knowledge as a freshman, like Tendai, that you want to
be a doctor and strictly follow the pre-med path. But it’s also
important to be sure that’s what you want to do. Don’t rush
into the decision. Don’t make the decision because it’s what
your parents want. Make it because you’re certain it’s what
you want. For example, Chanel realized she loved what doctors
do on a daily basis during the summer after freshman year,
when she shadowed a doctor at a hospital and interned with
a private practice physician. Katie realized that med school
opens up a wide variety of jobs, from surgeons to radiologists
to executives at biotech companies. Sometimes these realiza-
tions come later. If they happen after junior year, like Lacey’s
did, you can always take a summer class or a class after grad-
uation to finish your credits, and that’s okay.
2. “Give yourself permission to explore
the liberal arts curriculum,” says Lacey. You
could be at a STEM-oriented institution, but you chose Wil-
liams. You should get the most you can out of your time
here. Take non pre-med science classes; they’ll enrich your
understanding of your other science classes. Take plenty of
Division 1 and Division 2 classes. As Tendai points out, read-
ing, writing, and discussion skills are important for any career.
Plus, med schools want well-rounded students, and those skills
will help you on the MCAT (continued online).
Upcoming on the ScientEphic:
• About Bats: A Podcast
• 5 Things Pre-Grad School Students
• Exploring Interdisciplinary Science
What is the ScientEphic? We’re Williams’ student-run science blog. Our goal is
to publicize the Williams science community. Want to get involved? Email mbg4.
Nancy Piatczyc’s Microscopic World
Science Faculty Weigh in
on “Why Liberal Arts?”
By Marcus Hughes ‘18
By Elizabeth Jacobsen ‘16
When I told my friends at home that I was
going to Williams College to study science, some of them
asked me why I was choosing not to go to a STEM-oriented
college. Their curiosity got me thinking. Why study science at
a liberal arts institution? Why teach science at a liberal arts
institution? What are the benefits of a liberal arts education
for science students?
To explore these questions, we decided to survey the
Williams science faculty to find out why they teach at Williams
and what they think about liberal arts. Many of the responses
confirmed what we already know, while others highlighted the
pros and cons of a Williams education specifically for science
students. We generated word clouds with descriptive captions
as a way of visualizing their responses (continued online).
It’s an exciting time to be a biology major.
This year the Biology Majors Advising Committee (BMAC) is
redefining what it means to be a Biology major or prospective
Biology major at Williams. BMAC hopes to build a unique sense
of community among those interested in biology through an
academic year of biology-related social events.
BMAC is a group of eight junior and senior biology
majors who work with both students and faculty to ensure
students are getting the tools they need to be successful bi-
ology majors. Their duties include direct advising of students
considering the major, assisting with the hiring process for
new professors, and organizing social events to build a sense
of community. Many departments have advising committees
with similar duties, but the collaborative nature of scientific
work makes these especially strong in the science depart-
This year, BMAC is placing a special emphasis on
building community through social events and enthusiasm. To
help keep track of events, they have set up a Facebook group
and have created a point reward system called BASH: Biolo-
gy’s Awesome Scavenger Hunt (continued online).
By Meagan Goldman ‘16
This article was inspired by the Art of Science, an
initiative to gather and exhibit scientific images
from students, faculty, and staff. For more
the hairs on a
“It’s endlessly fun looking at these things,” says
Nancy Piatczyc while enlarging a black and white image on her
computer. As the image focuses, striations appear. Without
context, it might be difficult to identify what it shows: a tiny
fragment of wood magnified thousands of times by a scan-
ning electron microscope (SEM). The wood is from a sunken
ship, likely British, that sank near the New York harbor around
the time of the Revolutionary War. The SEM images will help
biology professor Hank Art identify the wood from which the
ship was built.
Examining wood from a sunken ship is one of the
many varied projects of Nancy Piatczyc’s job. As the Williams
electron microscopy technician, Piatczyc lives in a world that
is normally invisible to the human eye (continued online).