Category Archives: writing samples

roses are red, it’s hot as hell


“Roses are red, it’s hot as hell: the mitochondrion activates the nuclear self-destruct sequence of the cell.” Embarrassingly for science educators across the country, it has become a well-known sort of in-joke among non-STEM people who had to suffer through biology class that, “well, I don’t remember much in biology class that actually helped me with life, but I do remember that the mitochondria [sic] is the powerhouse of the cell.” But how many people know that the mitochondria activate the nuclear self-destruct sequence of the cell? My use of “nuclear,” is literal: this self-destruct sequence goes on to destroy […]

to build a castle


When I came to the United States from Singapore for the first time in kindergarten, I learnt about castles. I thought they were really cool. I wanted a castle, and it became this deep-seated desire, except as I grew into first and second grades and picked up books on electricity, AC generators, chemistry and robots, my conception transformed it into this high-tech castle, with tons of robots. This castle would always have secret passages. I was fascinated with secret passages. Trap doors. I instinctively hated being imprisoned in any kind of simple room with four walls and any time I […]

to live in a pond


pretty, like the world— pretty, for a fish. pretty, amidst the marbled moss-topped rocks and the trickling water murmuring in. how vast and wide the outside world! how deep— how grey— schools of a thousand fishes; stalkers searching for prey; thermocline currents sending fast would-be parents on their way. she sees it all from her glassy window as schoolkids drop the koi food in. “reality is here— in this world,” the others tell her. “and what a wonderful world we live in!” she lets out a bubbly sigh; and turns her eyes she cannot close, towards that circular, eternal sky. […]

significance


I push the boundaries of serotonin syndrome occasionally, so a few days ago, I asked this girl and boy near Delancey to measure my pulse for me. We struck up a conversation. I tried to describe how my Effexor tended to make me feel that arbitrary sensations and thoughts have deep significance. “It always makes you feel that this moment, this impending moment, is monumentally significant. Even this wind has significance,” I giggled, to illustrate the absurdity. But the girl started stretching out her arms; looking up to the sky and closing her eyes, she spun her hands and arched […]

coherence


I thought we’d be alike; our hearts each dwelling in multiple places, identity fragmented, like a pencil in a half-full glass of water trying to piece reality together. But your friends are assembled around you, talking about your vacations — every semester it’s different: Moscow, Milan, Johannesburg, Buenos Aires or something of the sort; I don’t know. Perhaps for you the airfare is no big deal — but for me, traveling has always been surreal. It’s hard to imagine that these places in my heart could be connected coherently by land and water. In elementary school, I would dream of […]

Fossil Fuel Fukushimas


Published in the op-ed section of The Cavalier Daily, April 15, 2011. There are several epiphanies that have made me sit up from mental slumber in my modern physics class this semester, but I suppose the one I should tell you here is the fact that the neutron was discovered only in 1932. Our basic understanding of fission didn’t arrive until August 31, 1939, when Danish Niels Bohr and American John Wheeler published their milestone analytical paper on nuclear fission in a decidedly academic manner: U-235 splits open like an eggshell? U-238 is more like a crumbling brick? Cool. And […]