Commencement 2013

Our graduating students gathered on Saturday, May 18th and 4pm in the CGS Auditorium. Dr. Michael Hasselmo was our guest speaker and was followed by student speaker Jake Gruber. 96 graduates walked in the ceremony earning their degree. 20 students graduated with Neuroscience Honors, 5 Summa Cum Laude, 7 Magna Cum Laude, 14 Cum Laude and 8 with Phi Beta Kappa Honors. The all-University ceremony was held the following day on Nickerson Field at Boston University.

Student Speech by Jacob Gruber

When I was asked to speak today, the first thing that came to mind was how humbling it was to have been asked to speak in front of a room with a collective IQ of 12,873……..by my calculations at least. That humbled feeling quickly dissipated when a very important question took control of my thoughts:

What in the world could I possibly say that would make you all want to listen to me for 5-10 minutes?

After thinking about how I could entertain you all, I realized that this was not a totally unfamiliar situation. You see, this is pretty much the same way some guys, myself specifically, try to pick up a girl….at a bar let’s say. Plain and simple method, really:

Just talk AT them (exclusively about myself) for an extended period of time and hope that they don’t walk away.

And you know what the beauty of today is? You all can’t really go anywhere! So, I like my chances better than ever today.

All right, enough about (how smooth I am?)  my pick-up methods and onto about topics relevant to today. I want you all to realize that as of today, as the Boston University Neuroscience program graduates of 2013, we belong to a very small, selective, and unique group of people in this world. Let me be a little more specific:

1.We are now part of the…oh let’s say…1% of the world’s population that will be walking rats on leashes at the dog park in 5 years; or at the very least, stopping rats on the street to verify that the bilateral electrolytic lesion was appropriately placed within 0.5mm of the hippocampus. We have NE203 to thank for that.

2.  How many other people do you know that are cool enough to be at a party and say something like  [nerd voice] “Did you know that caffeine is the only stimulant to act as a receptor antagonist? Specifically, it acts at the synapse involving the adenosine A2A receptor!”. (If you anyone in here claims they haven’t used that one, they’re lying.) I know I have.

I can’t tell you how many times, after taking Systems Physiology, that I thought about how Trypsinogen was being converted to trypsin by enterokinase in the brush border of my small intestine after a large protein meal (some of you are nodding in agreement while others are just staring at me blankly).

But seriously. I cannot tell you how thankful I am for the experience I have had at this university, and specifically in this department.

I actually started my college career at another local college studying business [here’s where I’m going to start talking about myself non-stop]. I was also playing basketball there but disagreed with my coach’s philosophy of preferring natural athletic ability over undying work ethic and dedication. In fact, almost all of my coaches throughout my career were like that. All except for one.

This was the coach of my AAU team; a kind of “club” basketball team that enters tournaments and competes in order to gain entry into the National Championships (pretty much every 16 year old basketball players’ dream). The problem was, our team consisted of un-athletic, undersized, slow players who had no business playing against the natural talent we were up against.  Nevertheless, our coach believed in us He told us that he would take a group of hard-working, dedicated, skilled players over natural talent any day, and that was why we had a fighting chance. That spring, we somehow ended up qualifying for the national championship.

So, Did we win? Nope. In fact, we ended up losing all 3 games in the national tournament. However, many coaches from quality division 1 college programs would gather to watch us play because of the way that we played: Disciplined, unselfish, relentless, resilient.

Now, What’s the point of all of this if you all aren’t basketball fanatics like myself?

Reflecting on my time as part of the BU neuroscience program, I now understand why my experience here was so special.

When I stumbled upon Paul Lipton’s office four years ago, expressing my newfound interest in neuroscience, absolutely no part of my academic history suggested that I would be able to complete even half of the neuroscience curriculum at BU. However, for the second time in my life, I found that I had a coach who believed that no matter what one’s natural ability is, hard work and resilience will go a long way. After just one meeting with Paul, I knew that I at least had to try.

Paul threw me right into the lion’s den where I quickly encountered Jen-Wei Lin and NE 203. It didn’t any get easier from there. I put off Calculus as long as I possibly could (I had always been horrible at math), but I eventually had to take it. Every time the thought crossed my mind that I wouldn’t be able to get through the curriculum, I would run to Paul’s office telling him “I’m not smart enough to do this!” and he would stare back at me as though saying “So what? Do it anyway.” It was almost at the point where I would just walk to his door way, get the look from him, and turn back around telling him I got the message. Same story during Chemistry 101.

However, by Chemistry 102, something happened. I started to study with classmates more, learn from their study habits, and lean on them for support. You, my fellow neuroscience students, became my teammates. We exchanged skills of intelligence, discipline, relentlessness, and resilience(y). While I went into that Chemistry class to hoping to get a B-, I ended up receiving an A- (despite having a near mental breakdown from all of the work). Yeah, I still didn’t get an A, but I’d been in a situation like this before [remember, we went 0-3 after getting to the national championships?].

Following this class, the frequent stops at Paul’s office to complain turned into more relaxed visits where we exchanged jokes and I would ask about his life for once. From this point on, nothing ever seemed quite so impossible. I entered upper level bio courses like systems physiology as well as computational neuroscience with the ultimate confidence that if I worked hard enough I could get through anything. After all, I had my coach (paul), caring and stimulating professors, and of course you all, my teammates, there for me the whole way.

Was the rest of it easy? No way. Were there still long nights and countless hours of studying and sacrifices to be made? Of course. But, I learned to love the process of studying. I learned to love the challenge of a hard class and to never run from it, but run towards it. I learned to implement a strategy into my academics that I used when I played basketball: As soon as you don’t feel like working, go do the work. You can always convince yourself not to do something. That’s easy.  But It’s much harder to convince yourself to do something.  Finally, I learned to love this program and everything it brought out of me. If I can do what I did here, any one of you can do almost anything.

I hope that we can all ask ourselves the following questions both now and for the rest of our lives: what else is there inside of us that we haven’t even yet discovered? what else have we restricted ourselves from doing or trying, so far, because of self-doubt, that we can eventually overcome?

Lastly, as I look at you all for the final time as a group and wish you all the best–I can’t help but notice that to my amazement, some of the girls are still remaining in the audience. They haven’t left. Even my mom has made it through the entire speech! But anyway, if any girls out there fell for any of this over the past 8 minutes, I will be available following the ceremony. Thank you.