Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Separating the Why from the What

Yesterday I had to write a practice personal statement for school. Having never done one before, I was understandably confused—what on earth do you put in it?

“Just say what you want to study at university and why,” my tutor told me. This information, though theoretically helpful, is, practically speaking, pretty useless.

You see, I’ve been into genetics since I was about eight and read an awesome book called ‘The Future: an Owner’s Manual’. Yes, it dealt with jet packs and all that kind of stuff, but it also said that scientists were genetically engineering bananas so that they’d contain the tuberculosis vaccine, and you could just eat the banana and not have to have the shot. Oh, and there was a part about engineering the purple Milka cow.

Of course, as a needle-phobic, chocolate loving kid, this was great news. Anyone who could do that, I decided, deserved deification. My goal in life became to make a Milka cow.

My life goals have changed since then, but I still think that genetics is insanely cool. Your genes decide whether you’re male or female. They decide your eye color. They even decide whether you can taste certain things!

More importantly, they decide whether you develop normally. Whether you have a 95% risk of Alzheimer’s or an increased risk of breast cancer. Whether you’ll die of natural causes when you’re eighty or from Huntington’s in your fifties.

On a more light-hearted note, if you’re a bit of a just-for-fun feminist, genes are in your favor. The Y chromosome is pretty much a sentence for a shorter and less healthy life—men just don’t live as long as women, and there are tons of disorders that usually only affect men. There’s the classic, hemophilia, but also Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy and even color blindness!

I’m also known to say (jokingly) that the ‘disabilities’ men have (e.g. an inability to multitask) can be explained by the fact that one of their chromosomes is missing a leg. In fact, I say it so often that my pre-teen sister has it ingrained in her mind. Observe the conversation below:

Me: Hey, Deniz—guess what? The most common chromosomal disorder affects one in 500 men, but only one in 2500 women. See? Women are cooler than men.

Deniz: Yeah, I know. Men are worse anyway.

Me: (Gives sister funny look.) What do you mean?

Deniz: Well, you always say that their chromosomes are missing a leg.

The fact that she’s in the fourth grade and can quote my unfunny genetics references back to me makes me more than a little bit proud. It also illustrates the fact that my household is kind of used to my rambling.

But that rambling—it’s difficult to get it down on paper. I know the why, just not the what. Somehow, I don’t think the university admissions office would be very impressed if they received a story about bananas.

Aimless rant over. Enjoy the rest of your day.



  1. Hey! At least we're happier while we ARE alive! Statistics prove that women worry more than men! It's in your genes!

  2. Okay, okay, point taken. But it's healthy to worry a LITTLE bit!

    Plus, having taken Critical Thinking this year, I feel obliged to question the accuracy of your statistics.


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