Isaac: Aspiring Doctor, Biologist, and Baker Spreading Joy One Cookie At A Time

Isaac is a student from the United States who attended the Summer STEM Institute (SSI). Isaac is passionate about biology, health, and medicine, and hopes to one day become a medical doctor. While witnessing how his community has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Isaac and a group of his friends founded an organization, Baked Blessings. His team bakes and donates pastries to frontline healthcare workers, firefighters, police officers, as well as nursing home workers and residents in his community. Isaac is excited to combine his passion for baking with his desire to give back to his community through this initiative. You can learn more about Baked Blessings by visiting their website here, and you can learn more about Isaac and his experiences in the interview below. 

What areas of science or technology are you most interested in, and how did you first become interested in the field?

I've been homeschooled my whole life. In middle school, I had this one science teacher who is also a doctor. He was pretty experienced in the biology field, and through him, I became pretty interested in health and medicine. For example, I remember when we were learning about the human cell and how all parts of cells work together to create a process that sustains life. I found it extremely interesting, and that’s what first made me interested in biology and medicine.

I’d say within biology and medicine, I’m most interested in infectious diseases. The COVID-19 pandemic further heightened this interest of mine because I’ve been following how people have been conducting research about certain viruses and diseases. One related innovation that I find really exciting is gene therapy and how scientists are using viruses to perform gene therapy with mutated cells.

What activities and community initiatives are you involved in outside of class?

I really enjoy playing basketball. Even though I’m home schooled, I play on a public school basketball team. I also play the viola in the school orchestra. Because many activities have been on pause due to the pandemic, I’ve also taken up reading and writing on my own. One of my favorite books that I’ve read recently is Peace Like a River by Leif Enger. I thought it was extremely well written and I highly recommend it. 

Also, after participating in SSI this summer, I started a community project called Baked Blessings with a couple of my friends. Our organization donates baked goods to communities impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of the communities we seek to help are hospitals, the fire department, police department, and nursing homes. It has already been almost a year since the pandemic started, and I thought it would be a good idea to spread joy and kindness through cookies and other baked goods to those who have worked tirelessly to serve our community in these difficult times. 

What was the inspiration behind starting Baked Blessings?

Several months ago, I learned that hospitals were lacking safety equipment, ventilators, masks, and other essential items from the news, and I found it devastating that all these doctors who were sacrificing their lives did not have enough equipment to fight this pandemic. I started thinking about ideas and small ways to help. I imagined that in the midst of their stress and the chaos that was happening, it would be a great idea to put my love for baking into use and donate to the doctors working in our hospitals. I’ll never forget how happy and appreciative everyone was for my baked goods the first time I donated to our hospital. After that, I decided to try donating to other places as well. And that’s how Baked Blessings all started.

What was the most valuable lesson or skill you learned from SSI, and how has SSI changed the way you view data science or research? 

I think the most valuable lesson I learned from the summer was the importance of communication in the world of scientific research. Attending the research bootcamp classes made me realize that communication is such an essential part of the scientific research process as well as seeking out research opportunities. I was inspired to take initiative to reach out for opportunities, and I hope to use the skills to create more opportunities for myself. 

Also, before SSI, I didn’t think of myself as much of a computer scientist. Because I was mainly interested in biology and medicine, I honestly didn’t think I would find data science that relevant to my interests. However, after attending SSI, I realized that there is so much more to data science. There are so many things you can do with data science, and its applications truly can reach across all the fields of science (and even beyond!) For example, with my interest in health and medicine, there are limitless ways that data science can be used to explore and expand upon very relevant questions and issues in this realm. 

Do you have a favorite memory from the summer?

Yes! I really loved attending the Masterclasses. They were actually really fun to watch. I loved hearing so many different people talking about their diverse experiences. The speakers were so passionate about what they do and find so much enjoyment in their work, and I found their stories to be both fascinating and inspiring. I particularly enjoyed the speakers who spoke about starting businesses and startups and hearing about how they went from building them from scratch and where their ideas originated. 

What are your long term career goals? Where do you see yourself in 15 to 20 years?

As I mentioned before, I’m really interested in biology and medicine, and I hope to become a doctor. I also would one day like to teach others about biology, research, health, and medicine, or anything related to those fields because these disciplines affect all of us in very tangible ways. Just as SSI taught me the importance of science in our daily lives, I hope to share this knowledge and passion with others. 

Even before participating in SSI, my goal was to become a doctor in the future. After SSI, my goals have not changed, but the program really helped me deepen my interest in not only the field of biology, but also research in the field of biology itself. SSI helped me better grasp what the research process truly is, and I’m really excited to conduct research when I go to college and eventually medical school.