Why did you decide to apply to UCB?
I applied to Berkeley because I heard that they examine your application in a much more "holistic" manner (whatever that means for you). The decision to apply was also based on proximity; I was born and raised in the Bay Area, so it was important for me to attend a college that was nearby. I also applied to Berkeley because of the competitive but prestigious academics; if I could survive Berkeley MCB/premed, I knew I would be able to handle what came next much easier than if I hadn't.
Why did you pursue MCB as your major?
Growing up, I've always been fascinated with how our bodies work, on both a large-scale systemic sense, but more so in a detail-oriented way. That interest further developed in high school after taking basic biology and anatomy, which led me to pursue an understanding on how our bodies orchestrate responses on a cellular level. How does disease affect our body, from the smallest of cells to the largest of organs? How does a conversation between two cells occur and if there's miscommunication, how does that snowball into an illness? These were all questions I had that drove me pursue MCB as my major.
What is one piece of advice you would offer a first-year student or wish you knew yourself?
You don't have to have it all figure out early on. It's kind of like Tetris; everything will fall in place at an appropriate time, but you also have to make an active effort to go to office hours. Watching lectures, taking notes, and taking exams isn't all there is to being MCB, or frankly, any major. Make an active effort to go to office hours and establish good rapport and interpersonal relationships with your peers, GSI's, and professors.
Don't feel pressured to join a lab immediately so that you could have "4 years at _____ lab" written on your resume. And definitely don't join a lab with the intention of being published as the SOLE basis of this decision. Pursue research at an appropriate time (earlier is better typically) when you feel like you want to investigate a question (or series of questions) that you had and your classes couldn't quite satisfy you with an answer. Anyone doing research typically has an excruciating hunger for challenges and the unavoidable failure that come with them. Results definitely don't come as fast as products in companies, so be patient with it and allow yourself the time and space to grow both as an aspiring and as an independent thinker.
What is a sentiment that keeps you motivated, or a life motto?
"we’re conditioned to believe that our worthiness and power comes from being ‘chosen’. We meander around hoping those who surround us would validate our existence and goodness; waiting for others to seek us worthy of love, greatness, and success. The truth is, your worth comes from choosing yourself and your power comes from reclaiming all that you are; to speak, feel, and do without the need for permission or fear of what others would think" - Salma Helal