How I Experience Art as a STEM Major

In college, most of my days are filled with numbers. As a medical science major, I am required to take classes that require me to calculate the trajectory of a flying bullet, name the organic compound for pharmaceutical drugs and identify the bone marking on the bone of the femur. And while I love the sciences, and had decided to become a doctor from a very young age, a part of me is not satisfied by simply living in the world of numbers, a place of black and white.

I have always loved the arts. As a kid, my favorite class was art and I would spend countless hours in the art room finishing my pieces or sharpening all of the colored pencils. This passion later shifted into English and I filled my journals with poems and unfinished stories, preferring to read a book than do math problems. When I won the art award during my middle school graduation, my parents weren’t impressed. “You should have gotten the math award or the science award,” they said. It hadn’t really mattered that I had also been named valedictorian; the word art had left such an impact that it had been the only thing on their minds.


Photo credit: My Modern Met

I used to joke to my parents that if I hadn’t decided on the path of becoming a doctor, I would have chosen to become a writer. They smile and tell me that they would support me in anything that I decide to do, but sometimes I wonder if they only say that because I chose the path that they had wanted me to choose. If I chose to drop all my science classes right now and made my English minor an English major, would they still support me? In a way, was it the stigma behind the arts in my family that made me choose the sciences? I guess this is not an answer that I will ever know, but these thoughts make me question if I am really doing what I want, or if all my life decisions are simply a result of the way I was raised.

Photo credit: MJIIT

And this essay may make it seem as if I was forcibly pushed away from the arts. But the real truth is that I made this decision by myself and for myself. Part of the reason is that the STEM culture itself can be restricting. Almost all of my STEM friends can’t relate to the fact that I’m an English minor, saying that writing takes up too much time and is too subjective to do well in. In a way, they are right. Most of my time is spent in lab or working on reports and preparing for lab. When it came to deciding what was important to my career, art and writing got pushed to the end of the list. If I was going to become a good doctor, I needed to dedicate all my time to the things that would make me better in my future job.

But there’s also a part of me that enjoys Shakespeare and surrealism way more than the sciences. I feel as if they help me understand myself and the world on a deeper level, in a complex way that would help me understand my future patients in a better way as well. Art gives me a way to understand things that are greater than myself, things that are beyond the words of a textbook. The manipulation of words and ideas helps everyone understand each other and help make us equal. I write because I can and I draw because I want to. My art is my different way of seeing the world, but a part of my world nevertheless.

Sometimes I feel as if I am at a fork in the road in where my passions lie. I love science because I love to reason and I love art because I love to feel. Sometimes you don’t have to choose between the head or the heart and hopefully, I never will. 

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