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Drugs & Health Blog

NIDA's Where Are They Now? Series: Finding Your Own Path

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Dan Martin

Sara Bellum

SBB recently caught up with a few past winners of the NIDA Addiction Science Fair Award to find out what the teens are doing now. Not everyone has followed a science path, but they are all in college pursuing their interests. In this series, the winners offer advice for today’s high school students trying to figure out what to do after graduation.

Meth and Medievalism

From proving that scavengers in the desert won’t touch the remains of creatures that have died from meth poisoning to studying medieval history, Daniel Martin’s post-high school experiences have not followed any predictable pattern. He came up with the research project that won him a NIDA Addiction Science Fair Award after asking his mother, a forensic scientist, whether the myth about meth was true. She encouraged him to look for answers.

Now a junior at Pomona College, Daniel’s college career is still a lesson in exploration and self-discovery.

“When I got to college, I started thinking about what I like doing and how I could understand the world. I have always been drawn to history as another explanation of the world [versus science]. Medieval History was my professor’s specialty, based on the classics—the literature of Greece and Rome and the study of religion, history, theology. So I was the first student who embarked on the new major he created: Late Antique Medieval Studies.”

A text box of motivational quotes.

Discovering Life Lessons

Daniel’s unique path included taking Islam during his first 2 years in college and becoming involved in community-building projects and leadership development on campus. “Enjoy the simple things about college life: meet lots of people and learn what their experiences are. Even if some activities don’t feel productive, you just need to do it.”

Of course, it’s rare to find job descriptions looking for Medieval Studies majors. “When I had to decide on a career path, I thought what I would like to do is teach and inspire a love of learning in others. But Education isn’t a major at my college, so I’m hoping to do a joint graduate program in Education and Law to allow me to do any job I want—teach high school history, for example, or English. I could even teach science and, I hope, inspire other students to do what they love—to be the scientists, historians, or mathematicians of the future.”

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One of the most important lessons we're seeing here that's prevalent in almost any success story is that of taking initiative. Self-starters can often excel due to simply not wasting time waffling back and forth about decisions or being blocked by fear, indecision, doubt, etc. Mom's like his... the simple suggestion to "seek the answer to your question." Such a powerful moment that redefines and shapes lives. Thanks for the write-up!