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Koret Fellowship Program

Francisco Gutierrez Ramirez
Francisco Gutierrez-Ramirez

Biology major, class of 2018

This past summer 2016, I had the opportunity to take the human physiology course at Santa Clara University. I was able to learn so much more about the functions of living organisms and its component parts. The class started off with going into the four themes that revolve around Human Physiology. The one that stood out the most for me was the idea that homeostasis maintains internal stability. It’s amazing to think how every single part of our body is an open system that exchanges heat and materials with the outside environment and if it weren’t for this continuous mechanism, we wouldn't be alive today!

We then started to incorporate components of a control system which include: Input Signal, Integrating Center, Output Signal and Response. What I thought was really genius is that pretty much every system has a feedback loop so as to influence the input portion of the pathway in the response. It’s like having an automatic on/off switch that helps regulate our bodies! We then delved into molecular interactions were we learned more about the functions of the four major groups of biomolecules: Carbs, Lipids, Proteins, and Nucleotides.

During the middle of the quarter we started to jump into the compartmentation of cells and tissues as well as the different forms of energies available to us for work. My favorite material was near the end of summer school which dealt with the Nervous System and heart. Learning about the nervous system - such as dendrites, axons, action potentials, cell-to-cell communication, and neuron-to-neuron communication, just to name a few - was very confusing but at the same time super interesting. It was probably the first time in my entire college career where I was okay with being confused. The more I learned about the nervous system, the more confused I became. I remember having so many questions, but most of the time there wouldn’t be answers to them. I’ll admit that it was frustrating at times, but it taught me that in real life, there will be many times when I will not know the answer, and not knowing the answer doesn’t mean I should give up, but instead keep going, because who knows, I might be the first to find the answer.

The picture above is of our professor, Dr. Bjerknes. We were being taught the flow of blood in a heart. Now, I could go into detail about how the left arteries, aorta, right atrium all work together, but one thing I was able to take away from this was how special our bodies really are. Literally everything in our bodies has to happen at the perfect time, or else it wouldn't be possible for us to live.

The biggest challenge was being able to put the pieces together into a bigger picture, and I don’t blame myself. Trying to put 10 weeks of regular school into 3 weeks of summer school was extremely challenging. It was only towards the end, that I began to see how everything is connected such as how our heart works as a system, and everything else such as our eyes or our legs. But they are all a part of a greater system, and that greater system is us.

The impact this experience had on me is that it gave me an opportunity to explore my body and why it works the way it does. It was an experience like nothing ever before and to this day, I am super interested in how anxiety affects our nervous system. It is what got me into studying the brain circuits dealing with anxiety, and this class gave me an understanding and appreciation as to how one tiny change can have a domino effect.

All in all,  I came out of summer school confused, with more questions and little to no answers. If I had to sum up my experience, in just one phrase it would be to “Just stay curious.” It is something I’ve learned to live by, and I can’t tell you how many doors it's opened for me. Being curious about everything that I do, is the best advice I could have ever learned. I am super grateful to the LEAD Scholars Program, it is life changing experiences like these, that without them, I don’t know that I would be the person I am today.