Herpetology

Interest in math, science, or engineering manifests itself in many forms. Caltech professor and Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman(1918-1988) explained, ‘I’d make a motor, I’d make a gadget that would go off when something passed a photocell, I’d play around with selenium’; he was exploring his interest in science, as he put it, by ‘piddling around all the time.’ In a page, more or less, tell the Admissions Committee how you express your interest, curiosity, or excitement about math, science or engineering.

My mom stood in front of the cash register, waiting for the cashier to scan her credit card. Employees walked back and forth, shouting requests for price-checks or scanning items at lightning speed. But today, I didn’t notice these things. I didn’t even check to see the name of the cashier on their name tag. Instead, I had my head bent over my Audubon Field Guide of Reptiles and Amphibians, my eyes glued to the photograph of the whiptail lizard. I tried to absorb the pattern of dark stripes on its back and the tiny specks of white. The miniscule details such as the shape of its mouth, the muscularity of its hind legs, the texture of the tail, the length of its fourth toe did not pass my eyes without inspection. As I furrowed my eyebrows, concentrating, a voice brought me back to reality. “Hey!” said an employee, smiling broadly, “I used to have the same book.” It took me a few seconds to process that he meant the field guide I was holding in my hand.“Oh, really?” I asked.“Yeah, I used to hunt down lizards all the time in my backyard.”“Wow. I didn’t know that there were lizards around here?”“Yeah, there are lizards everywhere. You just have to be fast enough to catch them.”As the employee finished bagging the groceries, we turned to leave. “Bye,” he said with a smile, “Have fun with the book.”As I continued to study lizards in the car, I couldn’t help but think about the guy from Costco. Wow. I had just formed a bond with a stranger, because of our interest in lizards.I studied the anatomy of snakes, turtles, lizards, and alligators for an event on the Science Olympiad Team. I had never considered myself an “animal” person, but I was ambitious, and I wanted to win. So I would study my handy Audubon guide while I exercised at the YMCA, when I followed my mom grocery shopping, and in the car coming home from serving at Reading for the Blind and Dyslexic. My ambition to do well soon transformed into a true obsession with reptiles. The pictures of spiky creatures, that had at first inspired horror and disgust in me slowly developed into comforting images for me. They were familiar images to me and these lizards and snakes had oddly crawled into a place in my heart. They had become my friends.Studying different species of snakes, lizards, and turtles, it was only logical that I would feel a stronger connection to nature. But somehow, I also stumbled upon a way to connect with others. Discovering that I shared my passion for lizards with someone else, someone whom I might have otherwise passed in Costco without speaking a word, I realized how comforting and uplifting it is to find people who share the same passions that you do.

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