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Major Insight Episode 20 Creating Chemistry Between the Arts and Sciences

Jafer Vakil

Major Insight Podcast          More Miami Podcasts 

As a biochemistry major who combines physics and engineering to study self-healing polymers, Jafer Vakil uses chemical reactions to create materials with industrial and commercial applications. His undergraduate work has already earned him multiple publications within the field of polymer chemistry. However, this is not the college career Jafer originally envisioned for himself.

On this episode, he also speaks about his abrupt transition from the liberal arts to the physical sciences, why sometimes the most unexpected path becomes the most profound, and how he overcame fear and doubt along the way.

Featured Majors:

Chemistry, Biochemistry, Physics, English Literature

Featured Organizations & Internships:

Hughes Internship

Career Clusters:

Engineering and Technology

Full Episode Also Available on YouTube

Music: “Only Knows” by Broke For Free

Read the transcript

James Loy:

Major Insight is a production of Miami University. This is where we showcase successful students, their promising new research and its relevance in our world.

James Loy:

The dynamic and metamorphic college journey of Jafer Vakil is marked by remarkable academic achievement and deep personal discovery.

 As a biochemistry major, who combines physics and engineering, to study self-healing polymers, Jafer uses chemical reactions to create useful materials with industrial and commercial applications. And his undergraduate work has already earned him multiple publications within the field of polymer chemistry.

However, this is not the kind of college career that Jafer originally envisioned for himself.

And on this episode, he also speaks about his abrupt transition from the liberal arts to the physical sciences, why sometimes the most unexpected path becomes the most profound, and how he overcame all his fears and doubts along the way.

Peter Everett:

Well, welcome Jafer to the podcast. How are you doing today?

Jafer Vakil:

I'm doing good, thank you so much for having me, Peter. This is so exciting. I’ve never been on a podcast before.

Peter Everett:

I'm the excited one, trust me. Alright, here we go. So why don’t you just introduce yourself to everybody, and let us know what your major is, and what you’re really interested in?

Jafer Vakil:

Sure, So I'm Jafer. I'm a Biochemistry major here. But I ain't no biochemist. The majority of my research interest has been in chemistry and physics. And for the past few years, I've been working and doing research in a polymer chemistry lab. And polymers are these types of materials. Pretty much everything around us in this room: the tables, the chairs, everything that's not like a metal or glass composite of some sort is probably some kind of polymer.

And so, what we do is we use principles from chemistry and physics to create these molecules, and then we use some engineering principles to test them. And then we get some really cool data, and then we publish it, and we put it out to the world.

Peter Everett:

Oh, wow. That’s exciting. So how many journals have you published in so far?

Jafer Vakil:

So I have one publication in polymer chemistry. And we just submitted a manuscript to another journal. It's my first first author publication. And so, we got the revisions back for that. I'm hoping that we get that done within the next few weeks. And hopefully by the time I finished my undergrad here, in spring is when I'm graduating, I'll have two publications. Maybe three, if I'm lucky.

Peter Everett:

And what really got you interested in this research, or what really netted your passion for this? Because I do know you came in a major in English, right? And Russian language?

Jafer Vakil:

Yeah.

Peter Everett:

Yeah. Which that's a big shift. Like, what made that decision come about?

Jafer Vakil:

That’s the... That's why I'm really here, isn't it? So when I came to college, I...

Peter Everett:

Well, you're here because you're an awesome person.

Jafer Vakil:

Yeah, thank you, Mr. Peter.

So when I came to college, I told myself, “Okay, if I'm gonna study something, I wanna make sure that I'm catering to my academic strength,” right? And, at the time, I thought that if I had an academic strength, that it would have been in writing.

And so, I thought what better way to hone my analytical skills, and become a better writer and analyze passages, than by studying English literature? I'll learn how to be open-minded. I’ll be … I don't know. A global citizen, whatever that means. And I'm just … I'm gonna study English literature, and it’s gonna be great.

So, first semester I'm here, I'm in this fiction class, and I really just did not like it, which was really weird because I love fiction and I love English classes. But here I am taking this fiction class, and for some reason, I just don't quite like it.

I think in retrospect, I just didn't like the teacher that much but... Or just, I didn't vibe very well with the teacher. But I told myself, “Okay, look, I understand every now and then I'm gonna get a teacher I don't completely ... I'm not on the same wave length with. So I'm gonna give this another try, and I'm gonna go on for one more semester, and if that's not working, I’ll reassess from there.”

So second semester happens, and I'm in this English class that every literature major has to take. It's called … it's literary theory, or something. And I'm with this teacher, this woman, she's just amazing, she's awesome, I loved her class. I'm learning so much from it. And the first few weeks are going by, and everything's going great. I'm really loving this class. But for some really weird reason, I still feel like I'm not quite just in the right place, right?

And it's kind of weird, isn’t it? Because I've had both sides of the spectrum of having a really great class and a class I didn't like. And I just... English literature is just not doing it for me and I don't quite know why.

So, it's the second half of February, and we're going into it, and I just … it's been building up in my head for a very long time. I'm just like, "Okay, why am I here, why am I doing this? I'm supposed to love this, but for some reason it’s just not quite working.”

So, at one point, I just can't take it anymore. I call off work the next few days, I skip classes, and I book at ticket straight back to Boston. I've gotta go talk to some people. Just clear this up.

So, I head back to Boston Logan, take an Uber over to Cambridge, and visit this old friend of mine, very old, I think he's in his 70s now. We go inside and we start talking and catching up.

And I tell him, I was like, “Hey, so I am in college now and I'm studying English Literature,” which should be no surprise. Because I love literature. But I'm just in this really weird spot where it's just not quite doing it for me. And we keep talking for a bit. And then at one point, I finally ask him, "What do you think I should do?”

And he says, "Okay, well, from where I stand, it seems like you have three options. Your first option is to leave college. Because, realistically, college isn’t for everyone. Maybe it's not for you.”

But I told myself. I really like the idea of college, like, I wanna stick with it. I wanna keep going with it.

So maybe at some point in the future, if that doesn't happen, then I'll go with that. But I wanna keep studying here.

And he says the second option is to switch from the humanities over to the physical sciences.

And I was, like, the physical sciences? What are those?

And he says, “You know, like chemistry and physics.”

And I was immediately like, “What in the world are you talking about?”

I used to leave chemistry tests blank in high school. I hated chemistry. It was the worst. I thought it was stupid. I thought it was memorization-based. I thought it was just terrible.

I don't even remember ever taking a physics class. It was just horrible. And I was like, “Why would you ever even consider that studying the sciences would be a possible option for me?”

And he says, “Well, consider the alternative, which is that you keep studying the humanities.”

And he says, “If that was really a viable option for you, then why did you come all the way here to talk to me, if it was gonna work out?”

And, it's kind of curious isn’t it? Because usually when we talk about the plight with studying the humanities, it's like Mom and Dad want me to be a chief financial officer. That's usually what it is. But in this case … 

Peter Everett:

It’s the opposite.

Jafer Vakil:

In this case, it was like, I’m studying what I thought I loved. I thought I had a vision or a plan for what was gonna happen. But plans sometimes just get unraveled really quickly. And at the time, I didn't seem to have a very good explanation for why that was. And we keep on talking, and this is like a really long conversation. I got there around midnight, and we were talking until like 8 PM the next day.

Peter Everett:

Those are those life changing conversations. I've had a few of those myself.

Jafer Vakil:

Yeah! Exactly. It was one of those. And by the end of it all, somehow he convinces me -- or maybe I convinced myself -- that I was like, "You know what? What if we just go with this? What if we try that?”

I'm trying to do the humanities thing for a year, if it doesn't work out, maybe I could try … maybe I'll try …. This is what I told myself, “I'll try this science thing for a year. If that doesn't work out, I'll re-assess then.”

I’m sleep-deprived. I'm like, I've tricked myself into studying science. And I said, "Okay fine.” Came back here, and I finish this semester, and as much as I loved the English class, it just still didn't feel quite right.

And that summer, I took the general chemistry classes, and now I'm =on-track to be a regular college sophomore studying biochemistry.

And at the time, I was one of the managers at Chipotle over on High Street. So I walked in there one night, and talking to some of the managers about what we're gonna do for the next few months, because it's gonna be really busy. You know, just our general plan. And there's this new employee working there, and I'm like, "Hey, how's it going? I’m Jafer.” And he says, "Hey, are you a chemistry major?”

And I was like, yeah, and he says, "Yeah, I've seen you in Hughes. Do you wanna do research?” And I was like, "Uh, sure.”

I didn't know anything about research. It was completely by chance that I met this new employee who happened to be one of the most outstanding chemistry undergrads that Hughes has ever seen, probably. And it just happened so spontaneously. And then I remember I was talking to a …

Peter Everett:

Well, you still had to be open …

Jafer Vakil:

I had to be open. Yeah.

Peter Everett:

So there is something that was there on your end as well. Don’t sell yourself too short.

Jafer Vakil:

Sure, but there's a lot of luck involved. There's a lot of luck involved. And I started …  my professor that I do research with. He was actually ….

Peter Everett:

What’s his name?

Jafer Vakil:

Dominik Konkolewicz. Dr. Dominik Konkolewicz. Fantastic man, and he teaches organic chemistry for majors the first semester. I was actually 45 minutes late to the first day of class.

I remember busting open the door and, like, girls turning around giggling, and I don't think he noticed but... And then, after the first class, the first five minutes of class for me is over, I go upstairs and I talk to him for his office hours.

I say, "Hey, I was talking to Zack. He said that you were looking for someone to maybe do research in your lab.” And he was like, "Oh, yeah, absolutely. So tell me a bit about your academic and scientific background.”

And I was like, "Well, actually, I was an English major like 10 minutes ago. I was reading Sylvia Plath, and now I'm here.”

And I remember -- he's a very posh guy. He said, I think he said, I think he called it “somewhat unprecedented.” I think that was the phrase he used. Somewhat unprecedented, my major change.

And at the time I was like, yeah, I agree. But I kept doing it. I kept with it. The next summer. There's this thing called the Hughes Internship, where they pay you a few $1,000 to do some research in the chemistry labs … or just in the labs. And I was able to do that experience, and I got a lot of knowledge about working in a lab, and a lot of knowledge about just how to get data out, how to write a paper, and kept working in that research lab. And it's amounted to a few publications, and I found that I really enjoy research. And now I'm on track to go to grad school in the fall. And it seems like everything is working out.

Peter Everett:

That is super exciting. Wow. So what I’m gathering from the story, so far as your student journey, is you weren't too hasty. You weren’t just willingly just throwing out … I'm just gonna throw my English major out now.

You thought about it. You got a plan in place. Like, oh, if I don't like this class. But also, you weren't scared to then take that next step when that class didn't work out. So, it was a nice balance. At least that’s what I'm hearing.

Jafer Vakil:

Oh, I was absolutely scared but... But I mean, I... It's normal to be scared.

Peter Everett:

Not scared enough not to do it.

Jafer Vakil:

Not scared enough. I wasn't quite scared enough. Yeah, I kind of just went along with it.

Peter Everett:

That’s super honest. I was like you in high school. I just did not understand chemistry or physics or anything. Luckily, I enjoyed the majors I ended up in. I'm doing humanities.

Jafer Vakil:

What’s your major?

Peter Everett:

History and comparative religion. And I just tacked on a philosophy of law minor too. So I'm just going all-in. But yeah, it's... And I did just go through that publishing process recently. It wasn't too bad. But what was your like?

Jafer Vakil:

So my publishing process ... So for the …

Peter Everett:

Because I know it can be intimidating for some students.

Jafer Vakil:

Yeah, so for my first publication, it was really just gathering a lot of data, and then it wasn't too writing involved. But for my first author publication, I had to download citation software. I had to comb through the literature. I had to understand what it meant to write a scientific paper. I had to...

Peter Everett:

What does it mean? Out of curiosity. Because I don't know.

Jafer Vakil:

Sure. So after all the work is done, right. After all the material testing, the trouble shooting and lab, the getting the data, the pulling your hair out of “why isn’t this experiment working?” After all that's over. You need to write a few pages. Abstracts. Introductions. Procedures. Methods. There's that. But you need to write it on a certain scientific level that can be understood by experts in the fields of organic chemistry or polymer chemistry. And so you need to understand and make sure you’re using the correct terminologies, and you need to read a lot of other papers.

I read so many papers to get an idea of what this paper should look like in terms of the level of professionalism, or the etymology or the ….

Peter Everett:

What was it like changing from reading Sylvia Plath to reading these science papers?

Jafer Vakil:

It helped. It helped because … so studying the humanities was always awesome. Reading literature was always awesome. And there actually is a surprising eloquence, not only in scientific literature, but in science itself.

So in terms of just … like, the reading and writing process, okay, maybe you don't know what the word moiety is. Maybe you don't know what the word carboxyl is. But then you keep on studying and you figure it out. And then, after a while … I'm still obviously in the process of learning how to read and have the right papers, and it’ something I’m going to continue improving upon in the fall when I go to grad school. But it's not too intimidating of a process if you give it your all, and you really just go with it.

Peter Everett:

And you did mention too that you were working at Chipotle. Did you continue to work there during all of this? I’m just curious how you balanced that work, and then also your academic …  because it sounds like this is a very rigorous academic … especially switching and having to relearn. That's a lot of work. How did you manage all that?

Jafer Vakil:

Yeah, so I remember taking this class, it was linear algebra with this really, really smart guy. And so, this guy, I remember, someone told me that when he was in high school, he would copy down … he was studying higher level calculus, and he was copying down proofs from books and proving everything. And I was just wondering, like, "Oh my God. How come I don't have that level of dedication and focus?” And I was just thinking, "Am I ever gonna be able to become something?”

There is this very common syndrome in the sciences, and probably in the humanities too, called impostor syndrome, where you feel like everyone's a million times smarter than you, when you’ve tricked your way into getting where you are.

And I asked, and I was like, "How!? How did you do what you did? How did you publish the absurd amount of papers that you do? What compels you to do this? And how were you able to get to the point where you're at?”

I emailed him this once, and he responded with this very long eloquent response. It was awesome. But one of the things he mentioned was like, "Look, balancing school and your academic life and your work and your personal commitment is difficult. It is difficult, but it can be done.”

And this might seem like something that you hear a lot, but it's not something you fully understand and realize until you actually live through it. It's the idea that: you make time for the things that are important for you. You make time for the things that matter in your life.

And it's like, look, if I have to work 40-50 hours here, that's fine. If I have to study another 40-50 hours, that's fine. I'm gonna make it work somehow. And having the mindset that you're gonna make it happen -- I can't speak specifically as to what exactly it is the process that you go through, when you're actually doing it -- but I know that as long as you have that mindset, that iron will, that usually you get pretty lucky. It ends up working out.

Peter Everett:

Maybe if that mindset isn't there, or you feel like, "Oh, I don't have any passion for the school work I'm doing,” maybe you're not in the right place, too. There is that as well. That kind of self-evaluation tool.

Jafer Vakil:

Yeah. Absolutely.

Peter Everett:

And that email really just crystallized that for you, that work-life balance, and everything?

Jafer Vakil:

Yeah. Reading that … First of all, I was grateful that he responded to my ridiculous email that I typed out for him, and then he told me about everything that he gave up to get to the point where he's at. And there's obviously gonna be sacrifice involved with doing well in school, or just in general, doing well in life. But if you're committed enough to make those sacrifices, and commitments, then you're probably gonna get to where you need to go.

And if not, then at least … you have to at least just tell yourself that, and then see what happens, right? Yeah.

Peter Everett:

And, I guess, speaking of all of this, what kind of stuff do you do outside of school? How do you relax a little bit? What's your free time look like?

Jafer Vakil:

This is not the answer you want. I like going to raves.

Peter Everett:

Okay. By the way, there's no answer we're looking for.

Jafer Vakil:

Sure. I'm just playing.

I do like rowing. It’s nice, rowing. It's nice being out on water. But I think, in my free time, I still love literature. I still love books. And when I have free time, I like reading my friend's writings whether it's prose or poetry. It's nice.

I'm trying to sound more literary and intelligent than I am by saying, "Oh, yeah, I love prose and poetry.” But … Just kind of spending it however it may come.

Peter Everett:

Just open-minded. That's a good trend here.

Jafer Vakil:

I guess so.

Peter Everett:

How has that open-minded attitude, I guess, changed your life for the better?

Jafer Vakil:

So one of the most important parts of my personal maturation was… there's a bit of an elephant in the room. Isn't there? With this maybe a tension between humanities and STEM majors? Sometimes, right?

I've been on both sides of the fence.

Peter Everett:

I mean, on the first episode we did, all we did was talk about the humanities.

Jafer Vakil:

Okay, so, yeah. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s … But I remember being a humanities student, and I remember being surrounded by other people who were saying, “Oh, yeah, science …”

Well, one thing I heard a lot was, “Science, it's nice. You memorize this and that. You get to do this. It has its place.” That’s something I heard a lot. “It has its place.” And then, when I'm with the STEM majors, some of them just... They think that humanities …. They think that their writing is obtuse. Or they think that it's sententious.

These are not words they would use. But they think that … They have these perceptions of humanities. And so, I remember taking this biochemistry class. It was a lab class. And I was talking to a girl in the class about Jane Eyre. Because she's obsessed with Jane Eyre. It's really funny. And I turned around to another student, and I was like, “How do you feel about Jane Eyre?” And he's like, “What?”

And I was like, “Jane Eyre?” And he's like, "Who's that?” And I was like, “ No, no, like, the book. Jane Eyre.”

And he was like, “I've never heard of that.”

Peter Everett:

That's depressing.

Jafer Vakil:

That’s the first thing I thought. The first thing I thought was, like, how do you … Okay, like, if you’ve never read Jane Eyre. That’s one thing. But how do you not know who Charlotte Brontë

is?

So, I'm going on with my day, I'm thinking, it's pretty crazy that that guy doesn't know who Charlotte Brontë is. But I kept thinking for a bit. Then I realized, like, wait a minute, does the average history major know who Louis de Broglie is? de Broglie, who is one of the most important physicists of all time. de Broglie, who much …

Peter Everett:

I’ll admit. I didn’t know who he was.

Jafer Vakil:

de Broglie, much like yourself Mr. Peter, was a history major. And then 10 or 15 years later, went on to get a PhD in Physics, and his PhD thesis was one of the most important results of all time, right?

Maybe you think it's weird that a STEM major might not know much about the Russian Revolution. Or the Berlin Wall, or the collapse of it. But maybe they think it's just as weird that you don't realize that quantum mechanics is the most important paradigm in the history of science, and yet there's still so much we don't know about it.

Or maybe you were a creative writing major, right? And you love poetry, and you live for poetry, and you think it's crazy how that cold calculating scientist will never be able to appreciate the eloquence of your favorite poem. But they might think it's just as crazy that you'll never appreciate the elegance of a Minkowski space of space-time and gravitation. So you see what's going on here.

We all have these …. Science and humanities is this way of perceiving the world and responding to it. In the case of the humanities, you're coming up with these …. You're combing through literature, experiences, and you're using cogent persuasive powerful writing to argue a point. And with science, it's all about trying to respond to and understand the world.

So, actually, it's really all this very romantic notion, fueled by curiosity, for everything that's around us.

One of the most important points in my life was breaking down this barrier that the humanities and the sciences, like, two polar opposites.

Peter Everett:

Like oil and water.

Jafer Vakil:

Oil and water, there you go!

Peter Everett:

I tried. I did some science!

Jafer Vakil:

There you go! Okay, like, we have this idea that they're so similar, but in reality … research is all about using intellectual thought to address or try to explain some complex topic, whatever form it takes.

And we always talk about being open-minded. We always talk about, oh, yeah, we need to be open-minded. We need to be global. We need to be …

Peter Everett:

Empathetic. 

Jafer Vakil:

We need to be empathetic. This and that. But the moment that were asked, or even when it‘s suggested to step outside our actual comfort zone -- all be it a very large comfort, the comfort zone of your field of study -- we immediately become defensive, we say, "Oh, science. Science is blah blah blah.”

Or, “the humanities! Poetry is stupid. You’re doing this and that.”

And it's really funny how we always talk about open mindedness. But it's not as common to actually have this mindset. And I'm not saying that every English major has to go study physics, or if you study Biochemistry, you better tack on an art history major. But definitely don't be too sure about what you … don't be too sure about your identity. Because your identity is always changing, and you're always evolving and always growing.

Peter Everett:

Yeah. So you mentioned quantum mechanics, and the beauty of quantum mechanics, and how that’s maybe equivalent or something that a literature major might think about a poem. Like, can you explain the beauty of quantum mechanics to someone who doesn't know about quantum mechanics? I'm curious.

Jafer Vakil:

I will say this. In order to be able to explain something, you really do have to have a very deep understanding of it. I'm actually … I'm still learning about it.

So, scientists come up with ways to describe the world. And so, for a long time we had some pretty simple equations and math formulas, here and there, to describe, if I'm pushing this table, or if I'm dropping a ball from the Eiffel Tower, we have some pretty simple equations.

But as science got more and more complicated and advanced, we wanted to begin to examine what’s happening on a very small level. On the nanoscale. And it turns out that when we try to use these equations, and these ideas from what's called classical physics, the science just does not work out.

We just got completely wrong answers. And there are a bunch of very elegant mathematical and physical derivations of basically how we go from looking at the world from a classical perspective to a perspective that fits and is appropriate for the nanoscale. And this paradigm of what happens on the very small level, this is what quantum mechanics is.

It's actually really funny because I remember taking a class that every science major takes. It’s an intro physics class, and I'm flipping through the test. This is when I first switched over to science. And I failed that test. I did so badly on it. And I remember thinking to myself, it's 20 minutes in. I think I got two questions right. Or, two questions done, not necessarily right. And 20 minutes into this two-hour long test, this kid walks up to the front, hands the test in, and walks out. And I think, “Oh my God.” I am enraged.

Peter Everett:

Everyone has a kid like that in class.

Jafer Vakil:

And that’s the thing. I knew that kid was really smart. He's actually really nice, too. I knew he was really smart and I was thinking, "Oh my God. Can I really do this? Can I really do the science thing? Is this even possible? How come my brain doesn't just work like that? How come it just doesn't click for me? How come that guy is able to... That guy must be functioning on a different level. That guy must be a prodigy. One day he's gonna go on to do something crazy like study -- I don't know -- quantum mechanics.”

And I think the entire time I was thinking, like, "Oh my God, he's gonna do this, this, and that.” I think to myself, I was subconsciously thinking, “How come I can't do that?”

And then there came a point where I stopped asking myself, “How come I can't do that?” And this question changed to, “How CAN I do that?”

And, as it would turn out, it's many years later, we’re both about to graduate, and it turns out that I'm actually taking Quantum Mechanics right now, and he's in my class. Of all the things to happen. He's really nice. And, again, it's very difficult …

I mean, reconsider your question. Can I explain how physics is beautiful akin to a poem? Well, how do you describe how a poem is beautiful? It's something you have to kind of read and experience and gain an appreciation for over time. But if you're open to the idea of poetry. If you’re open to the idea of looking at things in a different way, I guarantee you will always find some beauty there.

Peter Everett:

So maybe you should have stayed in the humanities. Because you are pretty eloquent. 

Jafer Vakil:

Thank you Mr. Peter.

Peter Everett:

No, no, no, I think that's cool.

Jafer Vakil:

I mean, we talk about … I know the psychologists talk about left brain versus right brain, right? Scientific mind versus the humanities.

Peter Everett:

That’s how I’ve always learned it too.

Jafer Vakil:

One of the things I hear a lot from humanities majors, like myself, formerly, was, “I can never do science because I'm too creative.” That's something I hear. Because you're too creative.  

Peter Everett:

I'm sure you have to be creative in science. To create new equations. Or explore these new frontiers.

Jafer Vakil:

Exactly. First of all, if you're walking around, telling people you're creative, you’re probably the most boring person on the planet.

But secondly, science is all about creativity. It's all about innovation. It's all about looking at things in new different ways. And so I think people do get kind of defensive, or get a bit uncertain or anxious about fields of study that just really aren't their own, and forget that, like academics, or just learning and being in an undergraduate/graduate environment, is fueled by exploration and curiosity. And that holds true for any discipline you look at.

Peter Everett:

Yeah. Wow. So we have just created that bridge that no one thought could be built on this podcast here between the humanities and the sciences.

Jafer Vakil:

Have we?

Peter Everett:

Well, I mean, at least with us two.

Jafer Vakil:

Oh, absolutely. I mean, has this never happened before?

Peter Everett:

I mean, not on this podcast. But … alright. Maybe it's one brick.

Jafer Vakil:

Sure.

Peter Everett:

So we got one brick laid, and this is the foundation for the future. And I'm gonna take this into all my other interviews. This conversation, actually. Because we will have more science majors on here. I'm gonna take this with me. So thank you for that.

And, I'm curious, do you have any final advice for any students listening? Because, as you know, the podcast is really geared towards incoming students, and the parents of those students, to kind of maybe give them some inspiration for their student journey.

Jafer Vakil:

I think: be sure of yourself, but don't be too sure.

And recognize that you're at the age now, you're in your early 20s, where you're constantly learning and you're constantly growing, and that you're not anyone but yourself. And you will lead and live the life that you choose. And you might be someone who comes in here saying, “I'm gonna study, I don't know, art history. And I'm gonna become the greatest art historian of all time.” And you might end up doing that.

Or, you might come in here thinking to yourself, “Wow, I'm James Joyce. I'm gonna create the greatest literature ever.” And then, all of the sudden, you're going to go do a PhD in chemistry, right?

Be sure. But don't be too sure.

And just rock out.

Peter Everett:

Awesome. Well, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. I loved the conversation.

Jafer Vakil:

Yeah. Absolutely. Thank you. It’s been great seeing you.

James Loy:

Jafer Vakil is a senior studying biochemistry major and physics at Miami University, and he plans to pursue a Ph.D. in chemistry at Duke University this fall.

If you've enjoyed this episode of Major Insight, please share it with a friend, with students, or with anyone who hopes to make a powerful impact on their world. You can find more episodes right now on Apple Podcasts and wherever podcasts are found.

 

SHOW NOTES:

Featured Majors: 

Chemistry, Biochemistry, Physics, English Literature

Featured Organizations & Internships:

Hughes Internship

Career Clusters:

Engineering and Technology

 Major Insight

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Major Insight is a production of Miami University. This is where we showcase our students and how they transform academic subjects into lifelong passions. Join us wherever you listen to your podcasts and discover these students journeys.

Host Peter Everett

Peter Everett

The Major Insight Podcast is hosted by Peter Everett. Everett, a double-major in History and Comparative Religion, hopes to leverage empathetic skills gained through his own student research to highlight the academic and personal journeys of fellow Miami students.

Ways to Listen to the Major Insight Podcast