Around The Yard: Kathleen Wallace

Returning to for a second season, "Around The Yard: Life As A Harvard Student-Athlete" explores life away from the playing fields for select Harvard student-athletes through their own first-person narrative. For a full list of blog entries, click here.

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Kathleen Wallace
March 8, 2016

As the first week of March comes to a close, I honestly cannot believe it is already my senior spring. Since volleyball is a fall sport, my senior season finished months ago, but I could not have asked for a more memorable and rewarding senior season. The volleyball team made history last fall by going to the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history and even taking a set off the eventual NCAA champion, Nebraska! I could not have been happier to share this experience with my teammates, and I already miss playing with them so much.

Now that my college volleyball career has ended, my friends and family alike have been asking me what I do with my newfound time. Between hanging out with my friends, keeping up with my classes, and planning for life post-Harvard, I would say I am still pretty busy. This semester I have been finishing up my last pre-med requirement, STAT 102: Statistics for the Life Sciences, and applying to jobs to work in clinical research for my gap year. Yet despite the daily grind, I’ve also had the chance to take some fun senior electives, and my favorite class this semester hands-down has been SCRB 165: Directed Differentiation of Stem Cells.

SCRB 165 is a laboratory course that explores the biology of human pluripotent stem cells and their remarkable capacity to differentiation into all cell types of the body. In non-biology words, we’re taking one cell type and turning it into another. However, the most incredible part of this course is that we actually have the opportunity to perform experiments with stem cells. As one of the most popular courses in the Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology Department, I was so excited when I made it past the lottery and got into the course. There are only 15 of us in the whole class so we are a tight knit crew, and each day in the lab is a new adventure. Already this semester my lab group has reprogrammed skin cells into induced pluripotent stem cells and started directing stem cells to form cell types from each of the three germ layers. At the moment I am most excited about our current project because we are in the middle of directing stem cells to become beating heart cells! In a few short weeks I’ll be able to take a video that shows the cardiomyocytes beating in unison, and that will be absolutely incredible.

It’s in moments like these where I am amazed by the wealth of opportunities we have at Harvard to pursue what excites us. If you had asked me my freshman year what kinds of experiences I expected to have at Harvard, I never would have thought that I would have had the chance to perform the same experiments I’ve read about in Nature or Cell. However, through the support of the SCRB department and their amazing faculty, they have given students like me the chance to pursue my passion for stem cell biology. As the semester continues, I can hardly wait to see what experiments we will try next, and I will always remember this as one of if not the best classes I have taken at Harvard.