Hailey Levi

Freshman
Biochemistry Major
University of California, Riverside

About Me

When I was younger, I wanted to be a scientist or a teacher. My goals are actually the same. However, there was that one time in middle school when I went through an astronaut and astronomer career phase.

I went to schools where it was common for me to be one of just a few African American students and being in class with another African American female student was especially rare. I was teased a lot in elementary and some of middle school. It was challenging to be the double minority student in certain situations, but it only made me stronger. Because of the adversity, I know how to handle sensitive situations and diffuse issues that others may not know how to deal with in regard to racism and sexism.

As appealing as becoming a scientist is, I am also minoring in education so that I can teach future generations.

How was your experience with STEM classes and teachers in middle and high school?

I had a special experience with STEM classes in high school and parts of middle school. In middle school, I was considered a GATE student, which means that I caught on to higher levels of thinking at an earlier age and needed to be challenged. Therefore, I was placed in science classes that allowed me to do many different projects like labs and dissections as early as seventh grade.

In high school, I attended a school that allowed me to earn dual credit for college by participating in community college classes as a high school student. I took high school classes like biology and physics, but I also took community college level math and science courses. My community college courses included: biology, chemistry, anatomy and physiology, pre-calculus and calculus 1. All of the science classes had a lab portion that required the completion of special projects.

I was in love with my STEM classes. Instead of just getting lectures like most students, I was able to dig my hands in deep and learn. All of my teachers were extremely passionate and in love with the subjects they taught which made me fall in love with science even more. They also proposed challenges that made me think on my feet. Overall, my experience in STEM classes was amazing.

After college, what’s next?

Once I finish undergrad, I plan to get my PhD in biochemistry.

What do you do to unwind?

When I want to unwind, I listen to music, read books, workout and hang out with my friends.

My College Journey

Why are you majoring in Biochemistry?

I chose this major because I love both biology and chemistry. So I combined the two! I think my decision to study both allows me to have a more in-depth knowledge of both subjects.

What excites you most about Biochemistry?

The thing that excites me the most is the labs! My favorite thing to do is working on a project in a lab. It’s where I feel the most at home and in my element (Get it? Science joke!). The lab is a place where I can be proud that I failed because I still learned something in the end. The coolest thing about my major is despite the fact that it is a niche focus, I still have the opportunity to explore other majors and a broad range of fields after graduation.

What has been the most challenging part of majoring in Biochemistry?

The hardest part of my major is balance. As a first year, this is a rigorous subject to study and it requires lots of time and preparation to get through. Knowing that I cannot get behind is daunting, but I know it will be worth all of the work in the end.

Have you ever felt discouraged? How do you get around that?

I have definitely experienced discouragement on my long yet rewarding journey. Growing up, I was one of very few African American female students in most of my classes, especially science. In fact, people who thought that I could not be successful in science often mocked me for it; but science is my first love and nothing has or ever will separate me from it.

Who are some of your biggest cheerleaders?

My biggest cheerleaders are my parents and brother, but my mom is especially supportive. She was always there for me when I felt down or stressed to encourage me to keep on going and be the best. My third grade teacher discovered the knack I had for science and supported the ideas (no matter how crazy) I had for science projects. Even though she’s in heaven now, I can still feel her cheering me on. The final member of my support team is my best friend. When I need to get away or just talk to someone about a new idea or project, she is the first person I go to. Even when she doesn’t always understand what I am talking about, she still supports my love for science and pushes me.

What do you want to say to up and coming Melanin Genius?

Keep on doing what you do best and don’t ever give up. If someone says that you cannot do something, accept that challenge and prove him or her wrong! Do what makes you happy and don’t let other people get in your way.

What has been the most useful life advice you have received?

The most useful life advice I’ve received is to do what you love; then once you find it, don’t let it go. I found my love in science and I do not intend to let it go. I have worked hard to get to this point in my life and I am ready to work even harder to get further.

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