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Yuka Takemon '14
Yuka was drawn to College of the Atlantic when she learned she could study liberal arts as well as marine biology. When she decided marine biology wasn’t for her, her internship at the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory opened her mind to other possibilities.
I ended up not being interested in marine biology in this part of the world and changed my focus to biomedical research. I interned at the MDI Bio Lab during my second year, and it opened my mind to that world. The things you can learn with biomedical sciences are endless!
Learning at COA
Although her focus didn’t lead her to take many education or psychology courses, Yuka says Group Dynamics with Professor Bonnie Tai contributed to her growth as a person. Taking the course not only taught her about the roles we play in groups, but also to become better at voicing her opinions.
Bonnie does a great job of putting students in situations that might be uncomfortable or hilarious. I learned about how I exist in groups, and the roles people fall into when they are with friends or at work. I wasn’t in a familiar field, but there was a lot of self-reflection and it helped me learn about myself. COA has also been great because of the flexible curriculum. I have been working at Jackson Laboratory for two years now. Would other schools allow you to do that?
Yuka expected that people would be more demanding of her in college. She found that this hasn’t always been the case at COA, but this hasn’t resulted in a lack of academic rigor.
It’s the opposite—people make you expect more of yourself. Professors give you a lot of freedom, and this forces you into situations where progress comes from yourself.
Yuka has also found that, after living in metropolitan Shanghai, Tokyo, and Hong Kong, COA and the surrounding Mount Desert Island community offer a very different approach to life.
In this community, people are really open-minded to everything and I appreciate that.
The Significance of Self-Direction
At her internship with the Penobscot Marine Center during her Freshman year, Yuka learned first-hand about some of the challenging aspects of politics and felt what it was like to be in the middle of tense processes. This experience factored into her shift of focus to research rather than policy.
Self-direction is mostly about figuring out yourself and what you like and dislike. Learning what you dislike is just as important as learning what you like because it can help direct you. Self-direction means knowing yourself more and knowing which direction is best for you. It also means requiring a lot from yourself.
During her junior year, Yuka designed back-to-back residencies at Jackson Laboratory with her advisor. The residencies lead to a summer internship and then her senior project. Her work was technique-intensive and focused on renal damage through aging, looking at markers for kidney damage. In particular, how a non-coding gene which had been considered to be “junk DNA” plays an important role as it could be regulatory to other genes.
I looked at a gene with several different techniques, which was beneficial for the lab and for me. This is a new field, and the people working in it are pioneers. It was awesome to be part of the frontier. It was a great experience and it was reassuring to know COA helped me get there.
Yuka has found that she is more accepting of new or unfamiliar ideas than she was before coming to COA. And while she initially didn’t actively think about other peoples’ beliefs, she now feels more able to understand the perspectives of others.
I decided not to be negative and I can understand where people are coming from now. In the city, peoples’ backgrounds are more similar to mine, but COA is a collection of all different kinds of people. It’s a mind-opening place.
The Meaning of Human Ecology
Human Ecology isn't a tangible thing. It is a school of thought. It can be applied to any profession you go to. I was taught to not isolate a problem in only one way, but to have different perspectives and understand that an idea can work in one discipline but not others for certain reasons. I will think about problems in a new light because of my time here.