Saturday, March 7, 2015

My name is Morgan, and I am not a math or science person

My name is Morgan, and I am not a math or science person.

This immutable statement guided my high school life—from geometry to algebra to calculus, from physics to chemistry to biology. I hated it all because it didn’t make sense to me. Needless to say, when I arrived at Macalester, I swore that I would never take any sort of math class. I comforted myself by saying that I could fulfill my natural science requirement through a “science for non-majors” course, preferably something in the biology department (because biology was as much as I thought I could stand).

But along came second semester registration, and there I was, sighing, because the only natural science course still open was Contemporary Concepts. Physics.
One important note to add to this story: I am stubborn. It would have been relatively simple to switch into a biology course—or really any other course—once the semester started. But no. I am stubborn, so I decided to stick with physics. I wanted the challenge. Jokingly, I told myself (and everyone else) that this class was going to transform me into a “physics genius.”

(I still say that, to be honest.)

So the first day of class came. Professor Sung Kyu Kim walked in and began lecturing about the universe. He discussed the vastness of the Milky Way Galaxy and the distance to the nearest star, things that made physics seem less like dreaded equations and more like “Wow, the universe is pretty cool.” He even said things that made me want to write poetry (I love poems): “Space was bubbly” and “We are all made of starstuff.” I had never heard physics portrayed in such a lyrical way.

Now I am more than a month into the semester and physics has gotten harder. There have been equations, and unfortunately, I have had to do some math. But taking physics has made me realize the value of the liberal arts. Physics dictates my everyday life whether I like it or not, so learning a bit about it makes my world that much brighter and diverse. Taking physics, even for this short period, has given me confidence in my critical thinking skills and helped me to think in different ways.

Before Macalester, I had given up on math and science. But thanks to Contemporary Concepts, I am on my way to becoming a “physics genius”…or at least someone who can tell you a bit about the relativity of time.

Morgan Malatesa ’18, Brookfield, WI