Knowing she wanted to get into medical research, Genevieve figured she’d brush up on her science skills to kick off her career journey. What she didn’t expect was how much she ended up enjoying her online learning experience. After enrolling in more life sciences courses through edX, Genevieve pivoted to a new career in science writing and launched a YouTube channel, www.sciencewithgen.com, where she shares her passion for science stories with the world.
What edX course or program did you take and what were your goals in taking it?
When I first started with edX, I was just thinking I’d “brush up” on biology, so I started with MITx’s Introduction to Biology – The Secret of Life. I wasn’t sure where I was going to go with my education – I have a background in communication and marketing, but I really wanted to get into medical research somehow. I just wasn’t sure where I was going to fit. I thought if I took a biology course it would help me to not feel so behind if I started a masters in a related field, but I never thought I’d take a deep dive into biology—I’ve always been a good student, but didn’t know if I could excel in science courses. I was so blown away by the Introduction to Biology course that I ended up taking many of MITx’s biology courses, including biochemistry, molecular biology, and quantitative biology. I also got a MicroMasters in bioinformatics with courses offered by the University of Maryland and completed a medical terminology course from DoaneX.
How was your experience learning online?
I’ll date myself here, but when I was an undergrad, the opportunity to take courses online was just being offered in my final year or two of school. The courses weren’t anything like what’s offered now, and what an incredible difference it makes. I especially enjoyed the way that MIT does their courses—recorded in front of the actual class on-campus. I felt like I was learning right along with the other students (even though those students have probably graduated already!). The problem sets were so engaging, it really made the ideas become concrete because you had to apply what you’d learned to real situations, rather than just memorize definitions. I really enjoyed when I was able to help out other students (via the discussion section) with a concept I had just figured out myself. I think the resources available now—video, animation, applications that allow you to study molecules and strands of DNA available right on my desktop or through my browser—fit my learning style so well that it made me excited to keep learning more. If this had been available during my undergrad, perhaps I’d have made my career in science from the start.
How has your learning impacted your career, life, or community?
It has made a bigger impact that I could have possibly imagined. What was supposed to be a single course to “brush up” turned into not only a passion for learning as much as I could, but for sharing what I had learned with others. And so I found my way to contribute to the scientific community: science communication. I have a love for translating complex information into relatable, accessible stories, and I want to elevate the science community by sharing its stories. Not only did I start a YouTube channel where I share science stories (www.sciencewithgen.com), but I now also work as a science writer for an educational company. I write about complex anatomy, physiology, and health topics for a broad audience. One of my favorite YouTube videos to make drew inspiration from Dr. Lander’s story about Alfred Sturtevant’s all-nighter in that Intro to Biology course. And my favorite piece to write as a science writer so far was about gas exchange and hemoglobin’s cooperative binding property (written for an audience under 12!), inspired by Dr. Yaffe’s lectures in MIT’s biochem course.
How do you plan to use your learning in the future? What’s next for you?
I want to do it all! I’m going to continue my science communications channel and would love to work on a science or medicine podcast. I also have a mission to someday contribute to science communications in medical research, especially in oncology. Both of my parents were diagnosed with cancer in the same year and passed away within two years of diagnosis—that’s actually the original reason I decided I wanted to take my career into science or healthcare. I have a vested interest in ending suffering from disease, for both patients and their families. I’d love to make scientific research something that the general public gets excited about and wants to learn about—and maybe inspire future scientists.
What advice would you give new edX students?
Use all of the resources at your disposal and find not only what works best for you, but what gets you excited about learning. And don’t be afraid to ask for help!