Michelle Lorica (3rd Quarter, 2005)

3rd Quarter, 2005
Science Scholarship Winner
Michelle Lorica

Michelle was born in the Philippines and moved to the United States with her family when she was four-years-old. After moving around the country for several years, the family finally settled in Potomac, MD. Michelle’s interests extend far beyond biology and chemistry. She is a highly trained vocalist who has performed at the Kennedy Center and was the 2004 recipient of the Holton-Arms Award for Excellence in Drama.

A Portion of Michelle’s Winning Essay:

Michelle Lorica

I am currently a Biology Major and a “Science, Technology & International Affairs” minor, and I hope to pursue genetic research.

While every aspect of the study of life fascinates me, I am most interested in evolutionary biology; and specifically, evolutionary genetics and evolutionary microbiology. The rising problem of diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, and other mosquito-borne illnesses in the tropics and sub-Saharan Africa has led to the development of anti-malarial medications such as quinacrine, chloroquine, and primaquine.

However, the parasite responsible for malaria, a protozoan called Plasmodium, has recently acquired resistance to chloroquine. Resistance to other forms of treatment is to be expected in the years to come. Rather than developing new medications every few years, evolutionary biology aims to attack this type of resistance.

Both of my parents are doctors, and upon hearing that I am a biology major most people ask if I plan to be a doctor as well. I respond “No” for several reasons. First, I am far too squeamish for the profession. While I loved carving out and examining the organs of a frog, fetal pig, rat, and giant squid I cannot imagine performing even simple operations on a human being. Furthermore, I would never be able to recover from the loss of a human life, which, unfortunately, is a terrible regularity in the business of saving lives.

But the main reason why I don’t plan on becoming a doctor is that, in many ways, the profession is a constant battle against an enemy that cannot really be defeated.  As members of nature, humans are subject to the rules of nature and among them is the survival of the fittest. Humans that are not “fit,” in accordance with nature’s brutal laws, should not survive. Modern medicine is among the wonders that have saved us from this fate, but there are many organisms in nature – plasmodium, bacteria, fungal parasites – that are not aware of our exception to the rule. Medicine is forced to constantly change in order to combat nature’s rapid evolution of new maladies.

This is why my parents are required by law to attend yearly medical conferences that announce new medical advancements. Evolutionary biology, in contrast, attempts the lofty goal of bending evolution towards our side rather than trying to outrun it. This has been achieved in parts of South America where cholera, a bacteria-borne illness, was forced to evolve a less virulent strain in the face of improved sanitation. As a result, many people continued to carry the cholera bacteria, but were not negatively affected because the strain was virtually harmless.

With more research and funding the possibilities in the field of evolutionary biology are limitless, and I plan on contributing my knowledge to these efforts in the near future.  After school, I hope to travel to South America, Africa, or Southeast Asia to pursue medical research in impoverished countries crippled by tropical diseases. As a rising sophomore, I am still uncertain about what specific field of research I plan on entering, but my short-term goal is simple: help as many people as I can.

I have led a privileged life in America, and I consider it to be my obligation as a Christian, and truly, as a human being, to help those who are considerably less privileged. One of my long-term goals is to teach biology and instill my own passion for the subject in others.

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