by Katie Schrader
Forensic Ecology— I wasn’t quite sure what that meant when I heard it. All I knew was that our class would be sifting through mounds of sand and rock to find real-life dinosaur bones. I was sold. But as we went around the classroom on the first day of class introducing ourselves, I suddenly felt like I could be in the completely wrong place.
See, I’m an English and Languages major. I study why Beowulf is significant in defining Anglo-Saxon culture and how literature can define and challenge the borders of society. I study the difference between the word “library” in Russian and “library” in Spanish (spoiler: it’s actually pretty much the same). But the one thing I had hardly any experience studying before this class was science.
As we went around the room, everyone explained which scientific field they were in and why they loved it so much, I eagerly wanted to share with them in their scientifically-fueled joy, but I felt unable. However, our professor encouraged us that science really was for everybody— a fact that I doubted at first— so I soldiered along, ready to try my hand at “real-life science.”
Our class has been in session for 5 weeks now and the doubts I had about my place as a humanities-based student in a heavily scientific class have been completely erased. Not only did I find myself helpful while writing reports, a task very familiar to an English major, but I found myself helpful in the physical processes of being an actual paleontologist. I, along with my group members, sift through sand to pick out the minuscule fossils of life from so long ago I cannot even fathom the number of years that have passed. Through this class, I, an English major, am contributing to a legacy of scientific discovery.
I think part of the reason why English attracted me in the first place is that we study works of literature that were conceived long before I was born and will continue to exist long after I’m gone. But what I’ve learned in Forensic Ecology is that science can act in the same way. My work specifically will be an active part of the legacy that will continue beyond me.
I can now understand my peers who were so passionate about science that first day. The fulfillment of knowing that you contributed to something bigger than yourself is what attracts anybody to their particular field of study— whether it’s learning another language, studying important literature, or classifying never-before-seen dinosaur bones. Science really can be for everybody— even an English major.