Impostor Syndrome



How was your summer? Good? Mine flew by, and every week or so I thought to myself “hmm, I really ought to sit down and right about how things are going!”, and yet here I am: it’s September 9th and my last entry was in May. Maybe I should make it my goal to just write once per season, since that seems to be the most frequent I can manage.

It’s the end of the first week of classes for the fall semester here at WIT, and so far I feel like I’ve more-or-less got the academic beast under control. I figured the way to beat my impostor syndrome was to be very, very prepared at all times in all my classes and dive headfirst into reading and getting work done early. To that end, I made a point on the first day of classes to sit down after my lecture and read through the first section of the textbook, and get a head start on the homework. The result was that in the second lecture I was already familiar with the material and could answer questions. Great right!?

Right. Here’s where my ridiculous f***ing impostor syndrome kicks in. Despite answering a number of questions correctly in the lecture, instead of feeling happy and proud of myself for actually volunteering an answer, that grimy little voice in the back of my head whispered “it doesn’t count, you read ahead in the textbook. you don’t actually know anything and you aren’t smart.”

Objectively I can sit back, think through that logic and realize it makes zero sense because the whole point of classes and textbooks is that yes, you DO read before lecture to learn the material so that IN the lecture you can fill in the gaps and get hands-on examples from your professor. How else would you gain the knowledge!? It doesn’t just spring magically into your brain!

This is so frustrating. I’ve been attending undergrad at one institution or another for nearly a decade, and even when I find myself doing well in a course I still can’t believe that I actually have a decent level of intelligence. I so badly want to be able to enjoy my little victories, but it’s still so hard.

F***cking impostor syndrome >:[


I had a very neat and tidy plan for how to finish my degree, and then suddenly my school released the course offerings for the summer and I realized pretty darn quick that they were offering zero courses I needed. I love my school and all but it’s a bit frustrating. I had to pivot quickly and decided to do another co-op for the summer semester and then return to classes in the fall.

In the interest of trying to remain optimistic, I only let myself cry for about 20 minutes, and then got to work creating a Plan B to get excited about.

I knew that I wanted to work at Accelerate, having gone through the program with a team (and gotten funded!) and then been a work study student for them. The only catch was that the position was listed at only 32 hours a week instead of full time. Again… optimism… I emailed one of my favorite professors about being a research assistant for her in order to fill the rest of my time.

So that’s the story of how I’m doing research into Drosophila, colloquially known as the fruit fly.

The main question driving the research is “How does Rdl impact locomotion as a result of photoreception?”


In other words – why the heck does this specific mutant fly become completely paralyzed when it’s placed in darkness!?

I won’t be going into the specific details of findings here, but I wanted to share some snippets from my lab notebook:

What I did my first day of research!

Date: May 17th, 2016. Time: 1pm-2:30pm

Where: Ira Allen Biology Labs

What: Learned how to differentiate between male and female mature flies. 100% accurately sorted flies.
Observed larvae in sucrose food solution.
Learned how to make food.
Learned how to anesthetize flies.
Discussed what we would be researching this summer -> certain fly mutations are completely paralyzed in darkness. We will be exploring this phenomenon.

I’m really enjoying working in the lab. Being able to devote a longer span of time to an experiment or line of research is very exciting for me!


Finishing at MGH

Wow – I really had planned to write more while actually at MGH, but things just picked up and started going fast.

Before the co-op started I had to write a description of my job, here’s what I wrote:

Under supervision, providing engineering and technical services to hospital staff. This can include testing and repair of medical technology or computer systems within clinical or research areas. Documentation of implementation and testing of medical technology and computer systems. Educating medical and technical staff on operation of technology.

I think I was pretty accurate in that description. Some of the things I did at MGH included:

Configuring EKG machines to suit the needs of clinicians.
Configuring & troubleshooting anesthesia machines in preparation of software upgrades.
Observing a heart-lung machine being used over the course of a by-pass graft surgery.
Completing an MRI safety course.
Using an Argon Beam Coagulator in the MGH biomed workshop, and observing its use during surgery.
Updating drug databases for drug dispensing and safety machines.
Providing day-to-day user support for systems that network devices together in the operating rooms, pre/post anesthesia units, and other clinical areas.
Testing medical device integration across all preoperative areas.
Training staff to use new software and devices.
Preventative maintenance on conscious monitoring devices to adhere to FDA guidelines.

I’ve struggled with Impostor Syndrome pretty much the entire time. Why did I get hired for this co-op over the 30-40 people that applied? Did I do a good job? Was my work well done? Was I actually contributing to the hospital and being an asset to my team?

I’ve been reassured by my friends and colleagues that yes, I did deserve to be there, I was doing a good job, etc etc, but Impostor Syndrome is such a nasty little voice in the back of my head telling me that I’m not good enough and that it’s egotistical and naive to think that I am.

I took two weeks off between internships, and will now be working at Wentworth Accelerate Innovation+Entrepreneurship Center until August, then back to classes in September.

Co-op Month 1: Complete

I’m winding down on my first month of co-op, and it hardly seems possible that an entire month has gone by already.

I’m amazed at how much I’ve learned in a month.

I have a deeper understand of how intricate and complicated of a process it is to keep a hospital this size running. It boggles my mind to know how many different factors have to work properly to successfully take a patient through pre/intra/post op.

My experience so far has been a mixture of day-to-day user support along with longer, in depth projects related to maintenance of equipment, preparing for Epic, and helping create documentation to teach other people (maybe future interns!) to do what I do.

A big thing I’ve learned in regards to user-support and trouble shooting is that if you hear hoof beats, think horses, not zebras. That is – look for a simple and likely explanation. Usually that means a cable is unplugged or a PC needs to be restarted. I’ve also realized how important it is to stay calm, and work through the problem methodically. It is so hard to ask for help, so when I’m going on a call I don’t want to give off the impression that the person is a hassle or is bothering me (because they aren’t and they shouldn’t be), which leads me into my goals for this internship.

My supervisor sat down with me to talk about how the co-op is going, and he encouraged me to think of what I wanted to get out of it and what goals I wanted to set for myself. In addition to some technical-related goals, I set a personal goal that I don’t want to find myself feeling negative or irritated about user support.

Not many people have actual training with computers, so there’s really no reason for them to be able to fix these problems themselves. And quite frankly I don’t blame them for being timid about pressing buttons – for me it’s not a big deal to identify the little box that houses the PC on an anesthesia machine, but to someone who has no idea what they are looking for the entire thing just looks like one big machine with lots of button and wires. And honestly I do think it’s better for them to just call for help, rather than risk turning a simply fixed problem into a larger issue.

I’ll leave this with a photo I took of the Ether Dome. Located right here at MGH, it was the birth place of Anesthesia in 1846.


co-op week 3

I’m nearing the end of week three of my co-op. Time is really flying by, and although my days are somewhat long it seems like they go by in the blink of an eye with all the new things I’m learning to do.

When I decided to move on from SMCC without finishing my associates degree in computer technology, it was (in part) because I had realized I really didn’t want to be an IT Help Desk person, and I could see how it would be very easy to get settled into a job like that and lose inertia to keep pushing forward. Moving from that to Biomedical Engineering, I really had this feeling like I needed to firmly shut the door on that type of work.

So naturally I’ve taken an IT Systems Co-op 😉

I was actually quite nervous about accepting the position, while simultaneously being very excited and flattered to get the offer. My concern was that I would spend a semester as a help desk drone, not using any of my biomed knowledge. To be quite honest, so far I’ve found myself using mostly skills I learned at SMCC, with the Biomed education acting as more of a general backdrop to give things context.

I’m starting to realize what a powerful mixture computer technology and biomedical engineering is, to the point where I’m finding myself wanting to seek out supplementary material on computer science to really brush up on what I learned 3-4 years ago.

What I’m seeing at MGH is that through my day-to-day activities getting familiar with how the ORs work I will be able to identify areas that could be improved, and use my BMED/Comp Tech knowledge to come up with improvements. Being around the operating rooms and recovery spaces, I am acutely aware of how intertwined computer technology and biomedical engineering truly are. All of the devices that I support within the Department of Anesthesia have some computer/network aspect that’s incredibly important to understand in order to trouble shoot.

The other thing I’m learning is just how exhausting it is to work at a hospital. So with that, good night!

Co-op Week 1&2

Wahoo, 4 years since I last wrote! I’m really interested that the last time I wrote here, I was still working on an associates degree in computer technology. I’m actually now two years away from a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering, and just began my first co-op experience at Mass General Hospital two weeks ago. My position is the IT Systems Co-op in the Department of Anesthesia and perioperative care.

So what on Earth do I even do? In just my first two weeks I’ve had exposure to many different projects ranging from IT assistance in the operating rooms, to upgrading software libraries on automatic syringe pumps, to testing equipment for software upgrade readiness. I’ve also been able to sit in on meetings with software developers who are helping shape the new systems coming into the hospital, which has given really interesting prospective on the big picture.

I’m so excited for the next 4 months!

being the only girl in the room

A few weeks ago I started making observations about the demographics of my classes.

There always seem to be the same kind of people in each class I take. The majority of the students are white males – most of them are quiet and awkward but there are usually a handful of bros. There are one or two foreign guys who don’t speak a lot of English. If I’m not the only woman in the class then there’s usually only one other and she’s quiet and looks confused (or is obnoxiously loud about how confused and frustrated she is). And then of course me.

I haven’t run into any terribly overt sexism here, which I’m thankful for. But what I’ve realized is that I’m almost invisible; so it’s not that anyone is trying hard to be mean to me, they just aren’t trying to be anything at all to me. Mostly this results in me just not chatting during class, but there have been occasions where the students and even professors will say things that strike me as very “guys only” things to say. Things like “oh keep girls away from my video games, that’s man time” while I’m sitting right there clearly interested in tech/gaming etc…. they aren’t trying to be exclusionary they literally just do not know any better.

The most recent, and frustrating, was yesterday. I and one other student (male) had made some fairly significant coding contributions during class and then at the end when everyone was packing up, someone else in class said to the male student “Nice work _______, you’re the only one here that got that to work!”. Not even a glance in my direction for the work I had done.

I know it shouldn’t bother me. But it just feels like if I were a guy, I would also be getting the praise. But I’m not, so I’m just flat out ignored.