Major Essay: What drives you? What are you passionate about?
Early in the summer, my Naniji (meaning 'maternal grandmother') was teaching me
about Indian culture, particularly cooking and reading Hindi. Today, in her
feisty style, she was showing me how to make paneer, an Indian delicacy. Not
letting me touch the pot she was stirring, she impatiently explained the
'the milk has to be heated to exactly the right temperature or else the paneer
will be loose. After it has heated, add lime juice to the milk.' Paneer is a
soft, cheese-like white substance so laborious to make that it is only served on
certain Indian holidays or for special company.
When Naniji at last consented, I excitedly added a drop of juice to the nascent
paneer, carefully observing the tiny havoc it caused. A small, yellowish drop of
lime juice tumbled into the milk, causing the milk to part around the juice and
become strangely stringy. The word for this process -- coagulation - popped into
my mind. I liked the funny-sounding word in chemistry class, and felt a
linguistic familiarity with it because I could discern its etymology: 'cogo',
from Latin, meaning 'to do or to drive'.
'That makes sense,' I thought, 'because coagulation could be the process of
driving solute together.' As I added more juice, I looked carefully at the
developing paneer and began to wonder what was driving the milk together.
Thinking back to biology and chemistry, I quickly figured it out: protein from
the milk emulsion was clumping together because it had been denatured! The lime
juice had a low pH, which denatured, or reshaped, the proteins by altering
charges on the polypeptide chain, causing the proteins to stick together! That's
why I can make paneer!
In a flash, I had figured it all out. Why the process worked, where its name
came from, and how things would look at the molecular level. I also realized
something else entirely: how much I love science, especially when applied. I
such an inner satisfaction that moment I figured out why my drops of lime juice
could so dramatically transform the milk into paneer. I wanted to feel the same
thrill again and test whether I really was passionate about science. I enrolled
in multiple higher-level classes, and since then, I have felt the same
discovering why only half of medicine synthesized is useful, identifying unknown
mixtures in lab, and proving Newton's laws of motion.
Much of my zeal for science stems from its human aspect, whether that is
coagulation from pH change in the context of Indian cooking and culture, or
global-level problem solving, like dealing with an epidemic. Science not only
excites and satisfies the inquisitive child in me, but it also connects me to
environmental problems, people, and even my heritage. Feeling all of my
- curiosity leading to understanding, cultures and people, and the possibility
for a positive contribution - is why I see my future in search of the truth that
only science provides me.