An avid cellist and pre-med student, Abigail Lee was drawn to study both disciplines at Occidental, recognizing a critical link between preparing for musical performances and conducting scientific research.
Science and music: a complementary combination
Science and music are generally seen as complete opposites of one another. Although the cello requires years of practice and preparation for performing a piece or competing—executing the methodical steps of individual practice and the hours of nitpicking at a certain aspect—it aligns together surprisingly well with scientific research. I chose to major in Cellular and Molecular Biology because of my passion for wanting to be a medical doctor, but also due to my fascination with the movement of cells and how their interactions influence the human body. In terms of music, I’ve been playing the cello since I was 5 years old and it was the centerpiece of my life throughout my adolescence, so it was almost a given that I wanted to continue pursuing musical studies at the college level and make something out of it.
Making a difference in the Office of Pre-Health Advising
Last year, I was the peer adviser in the Office of Pre-Health Advising. It was the first time the Pre-Health Office initiated a role like mine into the program, and I was very honored to be the first one chosen for the position. They implemented the peer adviser role so there could be a student representative who is empathetic and perhaps easier to talk to as a peer. Being a student who not only represents the office, but is also a pre-med student taking on an adviser role made a lot of other students feel comfortable and at ease with me. I think this opened more doors for people to start reaching out to pre-health advising without hesitation.
I also highly recommend attending office hours with professors. In my personal experience, office hours were a critical time to develop personal relationships with professors.
Important resources for Oxy students
I highly recommend looking into the newsletters that many Oxy offices provide, even if it’s not the Pre-Health Office. Those newsletters contain lots of important information about academic opportunities and support. I suggest that students pay attention to the different types of clubs and organizations that are promoted during the first days of classes and put themselves out there. For example, Scientific Scholars Achievement Program (SSAP), Peer Tutoring, and other student clubs are genuinely willing to help and provide as many resources as they can to assist you in your individual success. I also highly recommend attending office hours with professors. In my personal experience, office hours were a critical time to develop personal relationships with professors, creating a space that naturally led to questions such as, “Hey, are there any openings for teacher assistant roles or research lab assistant positions next year?” In my case, this was the first stepping stone that led to a multitude of opportunities such as my current research assistant position in Dr. Baran’s research lab. Office hours help foster relationships, which is critical in developing connections with professors as it leads to a fruitful outcome in securing recommendation letters from respected faculty members that really know you as a whole.
The importance of a liberal arts education
Being able to partake in a wide range of classes makes you more diverse and multifaceted in your thinking and how you approach different areas of your life. It brings an essence of “creativity,” allowing the individual to approach a question from many different angles. After I graduate, I believe my liberal arts college curriculum will continue to empower me to look critically at many different situations or circumstances I come across—almost like a fourth-dimensional perspective to see the bigger picture.
Diversity and more at Oxy
My favorite thing about Oxy is the lifelong friends that I have made. I appreciate Oxy’s diversity and the multitude of different people from all over the country and all over the world. All of the different types of people that I've met make me appreciate the distinctiveness of students. It allows you to be more open-minded and interact with a lot of great individuals. I actually lived in Los Angeles prior to moving to Seattle, so it was a pleasure to come back to my original home and reconnect with my old childhood friends. As a fervid city girl, I adore Los Angeles—its culture, vibe, sunny weather, and everything the city has to offer. It’s a city that will always have a very special place in my heart, along with Occidental College.
I believe my liberal arts college curriculum will continue to empower me to look critically at many different situations or circumstances I come across—almost like a fourth-dimensional perspective.