Life After Ripon — Raymond Allen ’15

Chapter 2: Past, Present, and Future Adventures

[Editor’s Note: Raymond Allen ’15, Karena Schroeder ’15, and Madeline Poullette ’15 are writing rotating monthly entries for the Ripon College Newsletter chronicling their post-graduation experiences. We hope you enjoy their perspectives on Life After Ripon!]

As I sit in one of the lounges of my apartment complex late at night, while using the free Wi-Fi and listening to one of my neighbors sing along out loud to country songs, I can easily reminisce about my first few months in North Carolina as a first-year graduate student.

One dewy July morning, I reluctantly awoke in the early hours and got ready for what would be a long day. I gathered the suitcases and backpack I had packed a mere five hours ago, gave multiple hugs to my family, and departed for a tiny airport in northern Wisconsin. As I sat on my connecting flights, I thought about my arrival in North Carolina and was reminded of my time abroad in Scotland during my junior year at Ripon College. Back then I similarly had to travel with limited supplies and was going to meet new people from many different backgrounds, so I felt I was somewhat mentally prepared for this endeavor.

My serenader has left me, but she is soon replaced by a father and daughter watching videos while they do laundry.

I arrived a month earlier than most other students, the reason being that I applied and was offered the opportunity to become a Duke BioCoRE Scholar. This program’s goal is to engage students and faculty at the school in a supportive community of scientists excited about the biosciences, and provides opportunities for student research and career development. After my experience as a Ripon College McNair Scholar, which exposed me to a life of research and greatly assisted in my preparations for applying to graduate school, I definitely wanted to participate in a program that would grant me such unique opportunities as this Ripon program once did.

I am left alone now. I use this open mic time to sing pop music to the arthropod that insists on scurrying across the floor.

During this extra month, I was able to attend the North Carolina Research Symposium, get to know fellow BioCoRE scholars, and start an early lab rotation. On my first official starting day in the lab, I was wandering, mostly lost, around the huge research building that was chock full of teaching classrooms and lab benches. After locating the office of Dr. Dave McClay, I sat down and discussed with him a potential research project that I could work on. To give some background on Dr. McClay, he is a prominent scientist in the sea urchin research community. His lab focuses on the early stages of sea urchin development and finding the gene interactions that take place to create the classic model organism. A few more meetings later, a project investigating the immune system of the sea urchin was finalized for me!

Ray Allen Sea Urchins

I close my thirty-three computer tabs open to journals, email, lab techniques, music videos, and grant drafts, and I let my thoughts settle.

Class-wise, I have been bombarded on a daily basis with readings of scientific articles, ranging from topics of RNA regulation to limb regeneration in axolotls. My graduate school life hasn’t been pure lectures and lab work though. I have recently become a part of the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) with the intent to assist in outreach and cultural events, and to meet new people! In order to celebrate the upcoming fall break, I signed up to participate in Duke’s Campout Event, which is a longstanding tradition for students in the Graduate and Professional schools to spend a weekend in October camping out on campus, with the hopes of getting a season pass to Duke’s men’s basketball games.

I walk back to my abode. I can hear the sounds of horror movies playing on a ground floor apartment, and I watch the sprinkler system shower a car in water.

Overall, things have been intense, but every day I learn a lot of new things! Talking with family and friends back in both my homes has kept me sane, along with care packages from the kindest people I know. So no regrets here! And with the upcoming holiday events and future lab rotations, I’ll have even more adventures to look forward to and talk about next time. Until then, everyone enjoy your pumpkin spice lattes and remember that things are going to be all right!

Raymond (or Ray) Allen ’15

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