“What is a gene?”
At 12 years old, I scribbled in my brand new pink notebook, covered in owls. I dubbed it my “question notebook,” filled with about twenty other easily-googleable questions. “A blueprint to our bodies,” was the result of my first internet search for the definition of a gene. But this blueprint had failed so many, even my own grandfather. Could it fail me down the road? Could I one day find an explanation?
By 16, I had been steadfast for years in my decision to pursue medicine. But, on the other side of perseverance is tunnel-vision. At Lyons Township High School in Western Springs, Illinois, I refused to stray the path I had meticulously designed for myself. I confined myself to chemistry, math, and biology. I bounded my limits to only APs, and only extracurriculars that “made sense.”
Perhaps the only time I strayed from the path was by pursuing competitive gymnastics until I graduated, despite 20-hour weeks and numerous insistences from my parents to quit. I was determined to keep something that did not belong to my future.
It wasn’t until class selection for my first Duke semester that I allowed myself to magnify this idea of straying from my path. I wasn’t loading up my schedule with Organic Chemistry or Physics, seeking to check off requirements for the MCAT. Instead, I was selecting Computer Science 101.
Upon beginning my new life at Duke, I felt a strange taste in my mouth whenever I was asked what I was studying. I was no longer “pre-med.” My years spent taking rigorous STEM classes and conducting independent research projects felt like a waste. I wasn’t even a gymnast anymore.
Two huge pieces of my identity had been excised, leaving gaping holes that I felt clueless at how to fill.
Sophomore year, I have been seeking out more ways in which I can stray. In pursuit of the elusive software engineering internship, I felt myself settling into a familiar mindset of: “What is most practical?” I refuse to enter this rut again. So, I enrolled in film editing, a class that has long-since sparked my interest.
I love the quote: “the best ideas are the most disruptive.” This summer, I fell in love with hiking, the solitude enveloping me in a cocoon of my wildest ideas. Alone, I can craft a business idea, or conceive an unusual plot for a movie. I can weave together the bits and pieces of my imagination.
I was drawn to film editing because of the analogy that the editor clears a path in a forest. With so many directions to go, they are responsible for compelling emotion out of the audience. I’ve found that a disruptive idea will do the same.
My draw to the Duke Research Blog stemmed from two places. First, I wanted to continue to stray from my path by re-exploring my childhood love for writing. Second, I craved time to learn about other’s disruptive ideas, in hopes of getting inspiration for some of my own.
Post by Ana Lucia Ochoa, Class of 2026