Life After Ripon — Raymond Allen ’15

Chapter 4: Decisions

[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!]

Circa 1,851 days post-zombie outbreak…

You sprint down the corridor, burst into the weapons storage room and slam the door shut behind you. Fully packed duffle bags in hand, you confront the items before you but listen as the shuffling footsteps and wails of the undead make their way toward the closed door. Directly in front of you is a standard pistol: efficient and accurate, but it has the risk of alerting them to your location when used. Their palms begin to slam against the door. You turn your head to the left and see that strung to the wall is a crossbow: quiet with reusable ammo but terrible at close-quarters combat. Wood starts to creak and warp. Glancing to the right, you see a long sheathed blade: great for up-close encounters but a burden to lug around. Hands snake through the newly created ruptures. Time seems to slow as you debate which item to take. You know you can take only one. Each has its own benefits, but which of the three will help you survive this chaotic world and protect what is precious to you? Cloudy, shifting eyes spot your position and descend upon you. You snap back into the now, spot the exit, and grab the…

Eight months have passed since I started my graduate school career. Eight months of meeting new people, learning science, consuming digital media and testing the environments of different labs!

As of the time of this post, I am in my third rotation in the lab of Dr. Debby Silver, whose research interests are brain development and brain evolution. The brain, the most complex organ in the body, goes through drastic changes during development to get to the efficient machine it is during adulthood. Normally, brain stem cells divide and give rise to other stem cells and soon-to-be neurons. Under abnormal conditions, though, either through genetics, infection or environmental factors, these cells don’t divide or survive in a normal fashion, leading to disease.

Developing mouse cortex cells labeled with a fluorescent protein taken in the Silver lab at Duke University.

Developing mouse cortex cells labeled with a fluorescent protein taken in the Silver lab at Duke University.

With this being my last mandatory rotation, I now have to decide which lab I want to join in order to continue my graduate education and research. This leads me to my story above. As you may be able to tell, I’ve started to watch The Walking Dead series. Mostly so I can stay hip with current times and also to relieve stress at the end of a busy day. Characters in this series have to make short- and long-term decisions constantly throughout the series. Decisions like which items to use to defend themselves and what to do when a member of the group has been bitten.

Similar to what I described, I now to have to make big decisions that will govern the rest of my time at Duke. All are excellent labs with top-notch research, which makes this decision especially difficult. Also coming into play are other rotation students interested in the labs and what type of project I would want to work on for the next few years. So many factors to take into account with an inevitable decision having to be made.

No doubt soon-to-be alumni at Ripon are making these same types of life-altering decisions as I write this, and current alumni have made these types of decisions over and over again to get to where they are today. Our lives are “Choose Your Own Adventures,” and I need to remind myself and others that even if a choice was or was not the best, we still have many more to come! What an exciting time to be alive!

This is my final post for Life After Ripon. I hope all of you have enjoyed the tales of my adventures. Sorry I can’t tell you how the story ends but if we cross paths, feel free to ask me what I decided and how life is going. For those who are interested in science, if you’re from a neighboring reservation or if you just enjoyed my story, reach out to me and let me know about how Ripon influenced your life!

With all good wishes,

Raymond (or Ray) Allen

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