Undergraduate Institution: Cornell University
Fellowship: Alfred Hershey
The Scientific Reasoning and Logic (SRL) course was one of the biggest highlights of the Watson School curriculum. The challenge of the course lies in the fact that it covers five diverse topics – from structural biology to neuroscience. This means that no one in the class is familiar with all of them when the semester begins. Soon after starting, I realized the key to success was to utilize the immense diversity of my classmates' scientific backgrounds. The course is organized in a way that mandates extensive student discussion, and the entire class supports each other throughout the semester. I learned from everyone around me, and was even able to help others. The curriculum emphasizes reading papers and thinking about the logic of experimental design instead of memorizing facts from textbooks (you find that those come to you on their own as you work on your assignments!) Finally, the class culminates with a mock grant review panel, which let me use everything I had learned throughout the semester to evaluate actual NIH research proposals. The SRL course exposed me to areas of biology I was unfamiliar with, and also helped me understand how to organize and evaluate scientific ideas into well-planned experiments and even whole research programs.