Recollecting What Excites Your Intellectual Curiosity: Personal Experience

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Table of Contents

  • Curiosity About Oncology's Complexity
  • Embracing Intellectual Curiosity
  • Lifelong Passion for Learning

Curiosity About Oncology's Complexity

What excites your intellectual curiosity? I learned the definition of cancer in 9th grade. I was taking a biology vocab quiz when I came up to the last question: “What is cancer?” I answered, “A disease in which abnormal cells divide uncontrollably” and left it at that. After turning in the test, I continued on to the next chapter Ecology. I was oblivious to see how complex and earth-shattering a disease could be. 

I learned the true meaning of cancer a year later when I had the extraordinary opportunity to shadow an oncologist. I was able to meet with a remarkable physician Dr. Pati, an oncologist whose discipline and hard work elevated himself from humble beginnings in India. I saw that he had an unbridled passion for his work; Dr. Pati explained very nuanced and complex topics in an elegant, sharp, and mesmerizing way. This is what being a physician looks like, I told myself. I was young, impressionable, and curious. Like a child standing on the outside of a candy store, nose pressed against the glass, I had a strong craving to be part of the cerebral world of physicians. I was resolved to follow in his footsteps.

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I remember that day as a humbling experience, but that day I had an awkward realization: I knew next to nothing about the world. There I was, a 10th grader unable to wrap my head around the vast world of oncology. I was used to feeling gifted, to knocking out straight A’s; however, I felt like a fifth-grader trying to solve differential calculus that day. At the same time, however, I realized that I had experienced a certain emotion that was difficult to explain with words. I felt freed. I had taken a fresh breath of air and found it to be invigorating and sweet like it was the first real breath I’d ever taken.

Embracing Intellectual Curiosity

Okay, I know that’s quite dramatic for a 15-year-old to say, but for most of my life, I’ve had a very narrow view of life: being a good student is about getting good grades. However, I realized there is still so much I don’t know or haven’t experienced. Talk about a major shift: somehow, spending time with Dr. Pati had rekindled my natural intellectual curiosity; it had, momentarily, filled a hole in my soul that I didn’t know existed. My new enthusiasm extended to all my classes and activities. Whether it was competing in Debate tournaments or playing cello for the All-State orchestra, I found my identity as a student, embracing those principles of hard work, passion, and curiosity. Now I cherish all my hours at school with sincerity and commitment, from writing rhetorical analysis essays in my English class to finding the molar mass of Butane in Chemistry Lab. Furthermore, I am committed to learning and exploring outside the class syllabus, whether it’s watching Neil Degrasse’s podcasts on Youtube or reading about……., I want to continue to learn for the rest of my life.

Lifelong Passion for Learning


Although shadowing an Oncologist may not have seemed like a significant event, in retrospect it was one of the defining moments of my adolescence. That seemingly unextraordinary day set many days in subsequent motion- days when I would embark on new challenges and experiences, push my limitations, venture out of my comfort zone, and before I knew it, the days gradually developed into years and shaped me into who I am now. At 15, oddly enough, an ancient, perplexing disease sparked something within me- an intellectual curiosity. One taste of the forbidden fruit and I knew I could never go back. 

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