Brandeis Alumni, Family and Friends
Scholarship Recipient Fox Baudelaire ’20
Fox Baudelaire ’20 will graduate from Brandeis soon with majors in biological physics and chemistry and a minor in philosophy. He is a first-generation college student and recipient of the Ting Tsung and Wei-Fong Chao Endowed Scholarship. Born in Ecuador, he came of age in Boston. He has worked as a research assistant with the physics department and served as an inaugural Lead Undergraduate Departmental Representative, standing for the interests of students across the Division of Science. Following his current assignment as a contact tracer to combat COVID-19, he plans to pursue a research career in biochemistry alongside scholarship in philosophy and involvement in higher education, interdisciplinarity and diversity in STEM .
The Brandeis Alumni Association checked in with him about what life is like now, his Brandeis experience and what having a scholarship has meant to him.
I’m in a house shared with other Brandeis students and located not far from campus. I am staying in a room I have rented since I first came to Brandeis. Recently I made contact with an alum who also lives in the area to help me transport groceries from the local supermarket. Just before library services at Brandeis became entirely remote, I checked out several books on the Python programming language, and I joined an online community to introduce neophytes like myself to the subject and to coding in general. In spite of the present emergency, and as my senior year draws to a close, I am also glad to be in a position with more time to catch up on reading for pleasure.
Weeks before major restrictions were put in place, I was approved to join the Peace Corps in a position to teach chemistry and biology to high school students in Mozambique. As the current situation unfolded, the Peace Corps suspended all volunteer activities, and I had to walk away from that opportunity. Now, however, I am excited to have taken up remote work as a contact tracer with Partners in Health in an initiative to help Massachusetts reduce the spread of COVID-19. Contact tracing will be important in the months ahead if the pandemic is to come under control. When it does, and when scientific research resumes its normal pace, I plan to work in a research-focused position in the areas of structural molecular biology and biochemistry.
It has often been stated that college is a microcosm of the larger society. Insofar as that aphorism is true, I find it a pleasant challenge to spotlight one or even a just few of my experiences at Brandeis, except to say that each of them carries an increment of personal growth. I remember the frosted cookies served at the viewing party in honor of Michael Rosbash and Jeffrey Hall as they shared a Nobel Prize. I remember fumbling my thumb over a buzzer during a meeting of the Brandeis Quiz Bowl Team. I remember the thrill of understanding a particularly elegant equation, of a certain organizing principle in biochemistry, of a certain choice of diction in a few lines of verse. I remember the consternation felt after a lackluster semester and the restored confidence that arrived in the semester to follow. I remember stumbling upon a brunch gathering to welcome new graduate students to the philosophy department. I remember attending a classical music concert held by the Composers Conference in Slosberg Music Center and presenting research I conducted during a summer with the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center. I remember attending a lecture on the Schrödinger equation in the morning and performing a polymerase chain reaction in the afternoon. I remember learning how to solder electronics and how to fly drones with help from the Automation Lab. I remember taking a class in literary method so that I could tell my friends in the Science Division that they would have nothing to fear from an English course beyond freshman composition. I remember treading the outdoor track one bright, temperate day and I remember staying indoors during a heavy snow. And of the challenges, even the one affecting all of us now, I am reminded of the need to be steadfast and true.
As valuable as any form of excellence in scholarship or research are the people who engender it. Though we are united as one university, Brandeisians share community in no shortage of smaller institutions: a department, a club, a consortium, etc. Learning to function in these communities, which began with the realization that I was even welcome in them, has been the single greatest and most positive force in my personal development during my time at Brandeis. When used in a much more liberal sense than its original definition, there is a word that nonetheless captures this sense of community beyond the confines of a college campus: family (or, in the lingo of my generation, by the truncated shorthand “fam”). In my own experience, I have found something special in this, the value of families that we create, rather than the ones into which we are born. The same values I have refined while at Brandeis, of integrity, compassion, and a love of learning, now serve me and my application of these values in service to others.
A few months ago, I met a lead author of the textbook Brandeis students currently use for the courses in introductory biology. A friend had set up the meeting so that I could get the author’s advice on how to gain more research experience in the sciences after Brandeis but before matriculating into a doctoral program. I found our conversation edifying, and I overcame a great deal of hesitation I previously had about reaching out to scientists working squarely in the topics that interested me, toward answers to questions I wanted answers to. Toward the end of our chat, he had asked, out of curiosity and lightheartedness, whether there was anything other than research in the sciences that I could see myself working on—say, “writing the Great American Novel.” I later learned that this person had taken a year off to paint at Brandeis before entering a Ph.D. program. It was only recently that I began to consider this question much more seriously, and the pursuit of its answer is in part what led me to apply to the Peace Corps. Distanced just enough from the idea that one cannot get far in the sciences without a Ph.D., it was a perfectly sensible question to ask: What do I want to do? And I came to the realization that it would leave me incomplete or unsatisfied as a person and lifelong learner if I refused myself the opportunity to contribute to scholarship in philosophy and especially the domains of epistemology and the philosophy of science. So, I have resolved to establish myself during my “time off” as an independent scholar in philosophy, in spite of the major hurdles that will involve, in tandem with gaining additional research experience in biological chemistry.
Of those who have been truly supportive of my success, I am proud to know Professor Melissa Kosinski-Collins of the biology department and Professor Michael Hagan of the physics department, who both taught some of my favorite classes at Brandeis. I should also like to thank Elaine Wong, who has supported me throughout the Undergraduate Departmental Representatives Program and has, in my view, gone above and beyond the typical calling of the academic administrator to help meet the needs of students, especially those of less privilege.
The Ting Tsung and Wei-Fong Chao Endowed Scholarship, along with other financial aid I have received, is a testament to the generosity of members of the Brandeis community. During my time as an undergraduate, I found this generosity commensurate with a sense of responsibility I bore to not only further my own education but to contribute to the education of others: As I’m sure many of us would agree by now, the university is more than a place to sit for lectures and exams, but an arena for discourse and interaction among perspectives diverse and often conflicting, each shaped by the unique experiences, virtues and fascinations of the individual.
A campus visit six years ago marked my first acquaintance with Brandeis; I would later receive my high school equivalency credential and become a student in 2017. Brandeis is one of only a few selective institutions that offers a major in biological physics for undergraduates. My interests at the interface of the physical and life sciences have only intensified since then, and I was also led to complement my understanding of science with a background in philosophy. Equal in importance to my goal of completing an interdisciplinary program in the natural sciences, the opportunity to be exposed to all manner of new ideas is in essence what brought me to Brandeis.
The university's unwavering commitment to affordability has had, and will continue to have, a lasting impact on the quality of education with which students will engage. In this time of crisis, that same commitment is now coalescing with the need to ensure the well-being of these same students. In my case, the Brandeis Emergency Fund helped me cover the cost of a webcam as well as rent. I wholeheartedly encourage all who can to support students during this time.
When you support the Brandeis Student Emergency Scholarship Fund, you help ensure students like Fox Baudelaire ’20 have access to a Brandeis education.
Read additional reflections from student scholarship recipients who are graduating from Brandeis this May.
Published On: May 19, 2020