Aug
21
2012

My Last Day at Riverside: Not Merely a Means to an End

My name is Kevin Kim. UC Riverside Class of 2012. Holding chalk to write equations on a blank canvas.

 

 

I sit here on my last day at UCR and thus, I am compelled to write.

 

How do I begin to write about an opportunity so life-changing and so dynamic? Or more so, how do I start? I met so many great people here and I have met my life-long friends at UCR. I met friends who supported me throughout my college experience and I met friends who saw me as their influence and looked up to me. This shaped me, and it always reminded me to be humble no matter what you may be doing or accomplishing. I met professors of all shapes and sizes, and it was here where I found out exactly what science was. UCR was responsible for breaking me down at times, just so it could build me up.

To me, being accepted in0to a University of California system institution was my first success. Thus, I made sure to work hard and always keep my goal in sight. To let this opportunity go to waste would be, what else, a waste. I felt fortunate to graduate, let alone in just 4-years. However, I felt no rush to graduate, and considered many times about staying an extra year. Nonetheless, when I found out I was going to graduate in 4 years, I was exuberant and humbled. Well, that is a lie. I wanted to cling onto UCR as long as I could. Perhaps it was uncertainty that I feared (as human nature does) and perhaps UCR was the only beacon of hope that I had in my life at the time. But the truth is, it was. But when I was told that I should graduate due to my high number of units, I welcomed it, even though I was hesitant at first. Watching how so many other colleagues did not graduate or chose not to graduate made me realize, “wow, I have a great opportunity and I must not let it down.”

I thank everyone who has believed in me, and fought the battles with me. I was not in the journey alone. With this said, I admit, the journey was a struggle. In every shape and form. I remember walking home at every hour of the day after studying. Literally, every hour. At 4 in the morning, everyone out in your path other than yourself seems like a threat. And with my mind already crazy from studying, the experience was heightened.

But I never gave up on hope, even when it was just me and my books.

Even when times were so low, I always made sure to look up. For countless nights, when all hope seemed to be lost, I looked up at the Bell Tower and wondered, “When will I get that high up one day?” Many times, I pointed my laser pointer up there and fooled around with it, you know, just to pass time. I can remember it all too well. I never wanted to give up, but I always wondered how much my body could and would take before it finally gave up.

Remaining plastic is the key. Being able to change form and shape made me stronger here at UCR.

I always tried to stand my ground here at UCR. When I didn’t like something, I let it be known, and when something that I didn’t like hit me, I tried to hit it right back. No, I do not mean anything political, although UCR hosts a great amount of diversity to do so if I wanted.  I never lost my ground. Even when I met with individuals that did not meet my criteria to be considered for friendship, I made sure to always separate myself from them and pursue my own interests. Not to sound arrogant, but prejudice based on things other than religion, gender, sex, race etc. is great and I cherish that virtue. Being able to judge is what allows you to prevent you from falling into traps that others set out for you.  I lived for so many years like that, meeting weird people along the way. Although I would never consider them my friends, let alone acquaintances, it was still a positive growing experience for me. Being adaptable is the one thing that prepares someone for the real-world and UCR is a life-coach.

With that said, I do not know why so many of my colleagues looked up to me and saw me as something great. Here I was, trying to enjoy my learning and just working hard. I got many emails from random colleagues saying that they wanted to be tutored by me. But for some reason, that bothered me. What gives me  the right to “tutor” them? As far as I am concerned, we are all students all in the same environment looking to succeed. I made sure they knew that and always helped out whenever I could. Are we not all just students in life’s classroom trying to learn and take notes? Compared to my fellow brothers and sisters at UC Riverside, I am not greater than anyone. We are all given equal opportunity, and that is what made (and makes) UCR great.

Pentland Hills. The Housing Complex I stayed my first year at UCR. 2008-2009

Funny anecdote: It was at UCR where I decided that science was my life and that I would devote my life to it. I remember people who partied or did things other than what I would do. They would say, “surely, you are missing out on the college experience.” To that answered, “I see you never go to the library and pick up a book to read or pursue independent research. So Perhaps you are the one missing out on the college experience.” And do you know what? I was right. Ha! Half jokingly of course, but when people say that there is nothing to do in Riverside, I chuckle and do not take them seriously. I mean, have these people ever been to the libraries here on campus?

As nerdy as I may sound (I AM),  I always made sure to have fun every now and then. I hung out with friends, engaged in video games and went to dinner. With this belief, I realized how important studying is, but also how important it is to have fun every now and then.

I remember everything so vividly. I remember studying every night at the wobbly table in Chemical Sciences and I remember the couch there where I used to sleep in some nights. Fortunately, it was by choice, since walking home at 5 am was suspicious and overly vicious and a recipe for a frightful night. I remember looking down from the 3rd floor window, and I can still visualize every raindrop that fell that day in October. Sometimes, I felt like jumping down because of all the stress but all of the people that cared about me would say, “okay, but don’t forget your parachute.” Then there was a place near the graduate school of management that I would go up to at 10 pm every night or so when one of the libraries closed. There, I made painful phone calls and broke down when the pain was too great. Not every night of course, UCR was not a tissue, ha. Most nights, I would just walk by and look up at the stars, not caring about what people thought as I jotted away constellations in my notebook. Now that I think about it, I can remember all of the locations that I made painful calls from. I remember all of my successes and all of my failures. But really, that is what made UCR great.

Everyone was so great to me. This hospitality allowed me to give that generosity back as well. I got to know a wide group of people that went beyond just the professors and researchers. I got to know janitors and chefs, and people from all walks of life. I respect them so much and they are my life coaches. Here people are looking down to these people at UCR but why? They are amazing people and they contribute so much to the learning environment.

One of the most amazing opportunities that I have received was the ability to work on campus. I have been a Student Assistant at the Services for Students with Disabilities here at UCR’s Academic Support Center. It all started when my organic chemistry professor sent a mass email to us saying that a student needed a volunteer to share notes with. I thought about this the whole day. Many things came in and out of my mind, but in the end, my mind said, “go for it, the student needs your help.” So I emailed the professor that night and told him that even though I felt I had emailed him too late, I was still interested. The professor not only told me that I was not too late, but he told me that I was the only one! So throughout that quarter, I came in after every lecture to give them the notes. It sure felt good inside knowing that I was helping out someone who needed my help. “Collaboration over competition,”  I liked to think about it.

Then, as the quarter ended, that was history. Here I was, wondering if I could volunteer further here but offered a job? Really? I was most humbled.

I grew so much from experiences like these, and it is such events like this that I will miss dearly. But the thing is, I will cherish it because it has contributed to my character. I will take what I have learned and I will give back.

Thank you to Sharon and Rebecca, two wonderful women that could have been just mere bosses but instead made themselves known to me as life-mentors. They cared about me and they have contributed to my growth. Thank you.

You will find many people like these here at UCR. To me, they set the example of how people should be. They deserve the respect and needless to say, they earned it early on.

With people like them supporting me, how could I ever fail, right?

One of my greatest opportunities was the opportunity to get involved with research with professor Dr. Cardullo, as pictured here. He always believed in me and made me feel welcome, even at times when I felt like I had no strength. Also, I must thank Dr. Thaler (not pictured, due to difficulty in finding an image), who spent countless hours in lab with me even though I may have gotten frustrating. She never gave up on me, and I hope that she knows that I never gave up on her. Another important professor in my life is Dr. Hammond. She never gave up me and always assured me to keep thinking and keep dreaming. And so I did. When I told Dr. Cardullo I was leaving today from research to start my new life, I couldn’t help but to hold back tears. Not because I will miss a mere person but because I will miss someone who never gave up on me. Someone who trusted me and believed in me. Someone who has taught me to grow and shine. Someone who considered me a success when I thought my life was worthless. After speaking to Dr. Cardullo, he told me that he was going to take over my project afterwards. Really? Many projects die after the student leaves. To hear this and know this made me realize that my hard work was not in vain. And do you know what? It wasn’t. Let’s just say that my project was trashed after I left today. I would still have smiled because I grew so much from the experience and I am taller because I stood on the shoulders of giants as the professors I have mentioned. To work with such prestigious professors made me realize how important I was. UCR made me realize that my voice needed to be heard. And what did I do? I spoke up.

Dr. Cardullo let me work in his laboratory and explore the wonders of science.

This is Dr. Hammond. What could have been a lovely hello-goodbye relationship changed entirely when I took her Animal Physiology Course. The amount of knowledge I learned plus the bond I got to build with her makes this even one of the greatest experiences of my life.

This professor below is Dr. Timothy Paine. He never hesitated to help me out or talk with me. But I admit, I have to take some credit. Every time I walked in, I walked in with so much joy! I was excited for science and Dr. Paine always heard me out. He was a mentor to me and he believed in me too. Here I was, just amazed in my passion for science in his Biology class sitting in awe as I heard him lecture. The class must have been about 350-400 students! Again, to say that the professor will never get to know you is a false statement. Dr. Paine knew my name, and my story, and I am forever grateful.

Dr. Paine, sharing his passion for science with the world.

This is Dr. Jin. Dr. Jin was so fun to talk to and she remains an inspiration to me to this day. She always believed in me too and she made sure that what we were learning in class was worth it. The interaction I had with her made me who I am today. Dr. Jin is amazing and she cares about all of her students. I will miss her greatly but I will be content in knowing that I will be working hard and making her proud.

Dr. Jin and I would always walk and talk about how much we loved science.

Below is Dr. Beran. I tell you, this professor could never be seen upset. He was a mentor to me too since Chemistry in 2009 but he extended to be the advisor of an organization I started on campus called Young Science Scholars. Together, we shared the vision of furthering science a wider community and we worked hard in order to accomplish this goal.

 

Dr. Beran, a sharp-looking scientist.

And then there is Dr. Haimo. She was a mentor to me in lab and in particular, journal club. Dr. Haimo was never easy on me and made sure that I grew stronger and stronger scientifically. I remember when I went up to present many times during research. You knew that you had to know your stuff when Dr. Haimo was there. And you know what? I made an attempt to do so! She helped ligate gaps in my learning and made me speak with greater confidence in front of everyone. Thanks Dr. Haimo for helping me grow.

How do you not smile when you are doing science, right?

Can I ever forget Professor Lopez? Of course not. Professor Lopez taught me to see everyone equally and by taking his ethnic studies class, I became a better person. It was a Chicano studies class. It could have easily been that “okay, I am not even Chicano, what the hell am I doing here, oh wait, I need this class” type of class, but he made it something different. Professor Lopez has a heart like no other and he supported me in the short 5 weeks I got to spend time with him. This was my last course ever at UCR and talk about ending my academic career with a bang. I am still moved by what he has taught me today.

Professor Lopez. One of the greatest men I have met at UCR.

I am not a Hollywood actor, but I could be with Professor Barr. Professor Eric Barr taught me in my public speaking class. Here I was, thinking that I could talk to anyone and anybody. But when I went to his class, I went in with open ears and mind. He knows how to teach and boy, did I learn a lot. I am confident when I speak because of his teachings and hey, is it not cool to say that I have my own acting coach? I always joked with him that if I didn’t become a Pharmacist, that I would hold him accountable for making me an A-list actor. I was planning to minor in theater (he is the Chair of the UCR theatre department) but that all went downhill when I was told that I had too many units to stay an extra year. Nonetheless, his teachings stay with me greatly today.

With a posture like this, is it not right that I learned how to speak more effectively from him?

Last, but not least is Dr. Lippit. This man is a genius. He introduced me to the basic principles of economics and I was exposed to that field because of his course. He taught me macroeconomics. Unfortunately, I found out in a week that I needed to take a microeconomics course. However, because of this amazing man, I decided to stay, knowing that this class was not necessary. But indeed it was. It taught me to think globally and wonder about how money flows within an economic system. He always spoke with me and made sure that I grew stronger too. I congratulated him on his retirement this year. This man deserves it.

He never frowned. Dr. Lippit is one of my inspirations.

All in all, UCR has been an amazing experience for me. Perhaps it would be sadder for me if I did not have my future clear set out. Fortunately, I will be attending KGI and continuing the progress there. But how did I end up getting accepted to such a prestigious institution? With the help of a UCR professor of course.

 

Dr. Susan Wessler is a great addition to the UCR community. Well, how did all this start? I remember seeing my genetics book and seeing a professor on the page that looked like a professor I saw on campus. When I ran to my friend’s newer edition to confirm, I was so excited to see that it said “University of California, Riverside.” I ran to the professor to get the autograph.

When I went in there just to get my book signed, I left with a mentor and a conversation. To tell you the truth, this is how all professors are like at UCR. UCR fosters this kind of growth.

Dr. Wessler, relaxing with her colleagues in her office at Genomics

After hearing my interests and my passion towards science, she introduced me to this wonderful man (pictured), her significant other and said that he worked at KGI. To be honest, I didn’t know that he was the President at such a prestigious university but this contact drew me closer and closer to KGI because I felt invited. I was not merely Googling schools to attend and then sending out 50 resumes hoping to hit one. It was personal.

Dr. Sheldon (Shelly) Schuster, the President of KGI

Thus, as my stay at UCR ends today, I start a new one. I say goodbye to everyone. I say bye to all the friends, the faculty, the staff and my job. My research is behind me now, and I will always look back to grow to the top.

But do you know what? Without UCR, none of this could be possible.

Thanks, UCR. Highlanders 2012.

 

What can I say? Shouldn’t I have the right to strike a cool pose in front of the symbol that changed my life?

-Kevin Kim

 

About the Author: Kevin Kim

I have devoted my life to science and rational thinking. As a student in life's classroom, I am striving to learn something new every day. Graduate of UC Riverside, Class of 2012. Graduate Student at Keck Graduate Institute, part of the Claremont Colleges. Class of 2014 with a Masters in Bioscience. The track is pharmaceutical design and development with the ultimate goal of becoming a pharmacist who can also contribute scientifically through research. I hope that through my postings, people will no longer be crippled by stress and anxiety. Fight on! Fight Strong!

3 Comments + Add Comment

  • What a wonderful and open hearted posting! It has been my pleasure to work with you and to share in your ups and downs. Like everyone else, I too have had my ups and downs and you were there for me as well.

    I wish you the very best as you move forward and I am confident you will accommplish many wonderful things. Most of all, you are well rounded, fun and one smart cookie!!

    Best wishes,
    Sharon

  • My main man, I woke up this morning realizing that I have not read your inspirational stress brender article. The first thing I did was get out of bed, wash my face and attack this monstrous beast. Kevin kim your writing is very moving and inspirational. In the future you will be one of those success stories that would be talked about.

    Best of luck my man

  • Damn=]

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