A High School Student's Perspective

by Pavan Anant, Tilde Cafe, Branford, CT

I am a High School senior and have been drawn to the Tilde Science Café since the last year or two.  I feel that Tilde Cafe's charm comes from the simplicity of each lecture. Even though I'd like to think that I'm smart enough to understand the mechanisms of the immune system, or of oncogenes, I know that I cannot. However, Tilde Café’s format is designed so that even a lay-person can understand the renowned scientists and experts that come to speak on complex scientific findings and phenomena. That's why I don't feel barred from attendance just because a Professor is talking about dark matter or virus structure.  I know that after every discussion, my mind is so engaged with the topic that for the next week, I have myself convinced that my future career lies in the speaker's field.

The Tilde Science Café is a great stepping-stone for young people like me, who are interested in science and medicine.  The Café provides an opportunity to be exposed to a truly scientific discussion.  Because the audience is a mixed group of scientists and non-scientists, and the discussion informal, I don’t feel awkward to participate and ask basic and even naïve questions to the speaker, and share with the audience the curiosity intrinsic to science. There are some days where I don't even blink because I am so absorbed by the lecture, and there are other days when I don't feel the same excitement, but each one is informative and helps focus my interest in science.

The best part of the Tilde Café, especially for those my age, is the opportunity to meet the great minds that come to speak on their topics of expertise. Speakers range from the Director of the Yale Cancer Center, Dr. Lynch, to virologist Dr. Dan DiMaio, to Dr. Pachauri, an expert on global climate change. After each lecture, if one feels so inclined, one can meet the experts in person, and also discuss career opportunities.  So, in my mind, the science café has also provided a great avenue for networking with scientists and experts in different fields. The Tilde Café audience is predominantly a grown-up audience, yet I am part of this group, flexing my mental muscles at par with them--sharing the same level of intellectual interest in the discussion.  This has been a particularly productive “growing up” experience, and helped me to bridge the age gap! I feel more ready for college and internships than ever before.

But, what I most enjoy about Tilde Café is that it is not all science in the strict sense. I remember that one of my first lectures was on the history of coffee – ironically held in a little coffee shop.  Clearly, there is “science” in every fabric of our life and it is this “wholistic” format of the Tilde Café that I have found most appealing.  On a lighter vein, the Tilde Café provides a perfect excuse to postpone homework, an excuse even my parents cannot overrule!

April 2012