When you were young, you maybe had a dream. You were going to fly to the moon, pass EC 5, cure cancer. Then, you grew up. You cut your hair, chose your major, changed your outlook. You changed a lot, but did you change your dream?
Sophomore Robert Joseph was just a youngster in Utah when he “caught two praying mantises and put them in a cage together, and one of them bit the head off of the other.” He recalls feeling “very upset about that,” but at the time, the grisly spectacle didn’t derail his dream of becoming an entomologist. In retrospect, he says, “Really, what I enjoyed about [studying insects] was the information, picking up little facts about the different types.” (Little facts, apparently, and little decapitated heads.)
Moving into high school, Robert picked up the pace of his education in science by taking AP Biology his sophomore year. He loved that class, and his interests expanded to include other unusual organisms like tarantulas and cephalopods. Robert explains, “I was always attracted to the weirder creatures, the more outlandish ones.” Still, his interest in the “niche outliers” of the animal community cannot hold a candle to his larger quest for academic enlightenment. As a junior in high school, Robert appreciated his chemistry class and at Tufts, he intends to major exclusively in chemistry, but only because Tufts doesn’t offer a major called “everything.”
Where Robert once collected bugs, he now collects facts. This semester, he opted to take The Meaning of America and German, along with his two conventional chemistry classes. He comments, “I’ve had so many other interests develop like history, languages and philosophy, that I feel compelled to study all of those things.” He continues, “That initial interest in biology hasn’t gone away, but it’s been tempered by a desire to learn more broadly about other subjects.”
In other words, Robert wants to shine a light on as much knowledge as he can possibly uncover, and in the future, Robert jokes, “I want to bring news of the electric torch to Utah.” Of course, Utah already utilizes electricity, but Robert really doesn’t have “any solid career plans.” Instead, he says, “I think about the kind of person I’d like to be and the characteristics I’d like to have.” After college, he just wants to “be a good person, live a good life in those philosophical terms.”
Last year, Robert happily snuck Classics of Greece and Western Political Thought into his crowded schedule. Those classes posed “challenging questions” like “What are desirable virtues to have?” and “Is it enough to be a middle-class person with a secure lifestyle?” Robert expresses, “I’ve enjoyed wrestling with those questions,” and with a laugh, he adds, “I don’t have any conclusions … It’s something I go back and forth on every single day.”
Although Robert’s future remains uncharted, he maintains, “I’m not in any particular hurry to plan out the next 80 years of my life.” He spent his winter break reading and trekking across great swaths of the western United States, and for now, he says, “I’m still just exploring.”