I’ve always been insecure about my intelligence; Duke has not helped. There is some irony in that, but let me assure you, I have a rampant case of the imposter syndrome. Of course, I know how common it is. The Huang Fellows even had a formal discussion on the feeling. But alas, calming the idle mind is not so simple; mine isn’t at least.
The poster session, our culmination of weeks of effort and thought, was, as a result, a bit more complex for me. See, up in that grand, academia-parading conference room, I couldn’t just google something. I couldn’t just skim a Wikipedia page, feel lightly satisfied that I had learned a fact I would forget in two hours, and regurgitate. I had to know what I was talking about. That was worrying, primarily because in my mind, I had no idea what I was talking about. Ten weeks of work and I am ever so slightly acquainted with “ATP-Mediated Vasodilation and Endothelial Adhesion of SS RBCs.” I was running out of time to pretend I knew anything about chemistry or pathology or even biology. And not only would I be a disappointment in my own presentation, but I wouldn’t understand a word of the others. The other Huang Fellows are brilliant; I am not. Typical Thursday thoughts really. Because I would have them every Thursday – the day of our weekly fellowship seminars!
So came my time to pretend. The day began, of course, with my waking up late and sprinting down our dorm’s warm-stick-of-butter of a stairwell. I succeeded at that, so perhaps the day was going to be good. I arrived at Trent Semans, rode the elevator to the sixth floor, and walked into the room we had heard so much about. Students and similarly sized tripods everywhere; morning sunshine filling in the gaps. There was no tricking anyone here. Even the air seemed to draw out the academic in you. So instead of pretending, perhaps I’d just listen.
I walked around the room and let my perception take over. Just listen. 19 three-minute chalk talks, as we were told to do, each of them simple enough to enjoy but too complicated to fully understand. It was extraordinary how the Huang Fellows broadly showed such specific profundity. That, I believed, I certainly was not going to do.
As I continued to listen, however, it occurred to me that I knew these people. They were not strangers at an academic conference; they were my equals. We had spent more than enough time in proverbial low rope courses to know almost everything about each other. We had too many Nosh lunches together, too many late nights, too many long drives to forget that we are the same. I am not an outsider of the Huang Fellows. They are no more intelligent than me and I no more than them. Sometimes I forget that we are a team, in the cheesiest sense of the word. Of course, we’re all smart in our own ways. If I need a zany neuro-engineer, I know who I’m going to. If I need a keen and short astrobiologist, I know who I’m going to. Even I don’t understand everything about the biochemical mechanisms of sickle cell disease, I know someone who could probably help with something. I have the Huang Fellows. We are becoming something of a brilliant symbiosis, constantly contributing to each other. I think that’s electrifying.
Seva is studying English and chemistry. As a Huang Fellow, he hopes to explore the relationship between empathy, narratives and patient care.