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Student Spotlight: Sierra Fales

Sierra Fales, a seventh-term student, has always loved science. As an elementary student struggling in school, she found the sciences to be a totem of success by capitalizing off of its interactive, hands-on tendencies. She followed this passion, attending an environmental science school in Maryland. There, she found a love for biology, while fostering a parallel penchant for writing. The convergence of these interests brought Fales to Bennington College.

Since her arrival, Fales has narrowed her Plan to focus on genetics and horror. “I took my first higher-level science class my second term and very quickly settled in towards genetics– molecular and cell biology” she explains. This decision was validated by classes taken early in her education, such as Comparative Animal Physiology and Genome Jumpstart. Her literature classes, on the other hand, guided her to “end up focusing in a lot on horror and horror’s relation to coping.”

This unique pairing of the literary arts and science might seem incompatible, but Sierra’s experiences at Bennington show that they intersect in many fascinating ways. She cites her favorite Field Work Term as an exemplification of this concept. When searching for a writing internship, Fales came across a copy editor position at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University. There, she was able to fulfill her passion for writing within a genuine, scientific environment

 “A lot of my Field Work Terms have leaned more towards literature because it’s more difficult to find straight science Field Work Terms,” she concedes, “but I usually do my best to find opportunities that mix them and that [experience did so] the most and gave me access to a lot of actual scientists working at universities.”

This self-directed learning often manifests as short-term, independent experiments as Fales continues her work in science this term.  “It’s very hands-on and student-centered; it’s not like going into someone else’s lab and being handed a very specific project with their very specific procedures. It’s a lot of forming your own questions, even more than something you would normally get in lab work.” 

She describes how, despite being given only three to six weeks for most projects, she’s learned the ropes of realistic scientific work: finding a question, obtaining resources (that are often not granted by the college,) making a plan, and adjusting it when things suddenly go “very wrong.” Fales encourages younger students to embrace this process, while also forming early, positive relationships with faculty in order to succeed.

Written by: Delaney Shultz

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