Lara Ocumen

Class of 2021
Cell & Developmental Biology

Why did you decide to apply to UCB? 

I applied to UCB because I knew that I wanted to become involved in research during my undergraduate years, and UCB’s commitment to the advancement of the science is world-renown. In addition, many of the faculty at UCB are well-known leaders of their respective fields, and I wanted the opportunity to learn from their expertise.

Why did you pursue MCB as your major? 

I knew I was interested in MCB after I took Biology 1A, one of the lower-division major requirements. Throughout the semester, all three professors kept repeating what soon became my least favorite statement: “This is beyond the scope of our class.” Although challenging, Biology 1A was one of the first classes that left me anxious to learn more about the subject, so once I knew that there was a subdivision within MCB that was dedicated to my favorite section in the class (i.e. Medical Biology & Physiology), I was hooked.

What is one piece of advice you would offer a first-year student or wish you knew yourself? 

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength.

What is a sentiment that keeps you motivated, or a life motto? 

In the words of Dr. John Matsui, one of the co-founders of the Biology Scholars Program at UC Berkeley: “Professional is Personal.” In science and in academia in general, there is always an unspoken understanding to stay objective and maintain professionalism, which in some spaces, unfortunately, implies that one must leave their culture and individuality at the door. In other words, once you enter the sacred space of the laboratory or classroom, where learning and discovery is paramount, who you are may be deemed less important than the knowledge that you produce. The belief that “Professional is Personal” negates this assumption and asserts that your experiences and cultural identity are an essential aspect of who you are as a scientist. Who you are and what you value as an individual are just as important as your identity as a member of the scientific community.