My Enlightenment (A Portfolio) by Ben Horst

When I came to the University of Washington in the fall of 2009, I think I knew that I would end up in the field of Chemistry but I did not know why.

Now, this is now what I have written on all of my scholarship applications, cover letters, and what I have told incoming college students over the past four years. I have written that I came into the University of Washington not knowing what i wanted to do, but ended up taking chemistry classes and enjoying them. I now believe this to be false. I was extremely disappointed my senior year of high school when I could not fit the chemistry class I wanted to take with my schedule, and I think it was from then on that knew where I wanted to spend my time. However, since I did not know why I wanted to study that middle science called chemistry ("middle" because it's too small to see most of the time, yet it's not too small where nothing behaves as it should) I avoided the question and simply said that I didn't know what I wanted to do and fell into the chemistry major.

Rarely do we just fall into what we want to do for the rest of our lives. And as I have reflected on my experiences here at the University of Washington and advice people have given me, the most important motivator for choosing a career path is happiness. What makes you happy? If at any point you find yourself unhappy and there is no external cause that you have control that is generating these feelings, that is reason enough to stop what you are doing and evaluate the priorities that you have set for yourself.

I have been forced to give this a lot of thought in the past six months. When am I happy? What am I truly happy doing? How can I make myself feel happy and everyone around me feel happy too? For me, it is chemistry. I have had other happy moments in my time at the UW so far as this portfolio will illustrate, but as far as academics go I am happiest when I am residing in Bagley Hall or the Chemistry Building. I am curious enough to stop at the posters that line the halls and read and re-read them without making much sense at all (including all of the Nobel Prize poster that are in sporadic places around Bagley). I absolutely love it when a puzzle that you and a co-worker have been struggling with can be answered with a simple shift in the frame of thinking, and suddenly everything lines up. The simple thrill of conducting an experiment of which you do not know the outcome is breathtaking. Usually you have overlooked something, but that makes the second time you do it more exiting!

I can finally say that I know why I want to be a chemist, and it is because doing chemistry gives me a sense of euphoria. It makes me happy. And it's pretty hard to argue with that!

These are two videos that speak about happiness that I have really enjoyed and helped me think about my life and what I want from it.