Meet Asia, who joins the ranks of other Science Cheerleaders on the England Patriots cheerleading team, pursuing science careers. Look for them on Super Bowl Sunday!
You have a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from UMass Amherst. Why Biology?
Asia: I have been interested in science ever since elementary school because I loved doing simple experiments and learning about different concepts. I decided to pursue a degree in biology because I thought it would be a major I would hold interest in for four years, and would also allow me to take the prerequisites necessary for medical school. I think my decision to attend medical school was really solidified during the time when my grandmother was sick as she suffered with Alzheimer’s disease for five years. My mother, an RN, fulfilled my grandmother’s primary wish to be kept at home and to not be put in a nursing home facility. Seeing my mother unselfishly sacrifice so much of her time and energy to put her own mother’s needs and care for her first really made me want to give that same attention and dedication to my own patients one day.
Favorite and/or least favorite courses you took to prepare for your degree?
Asia: My least favorite courses would have to be general chemistry and calculus II. Just thinking about derivatives makes my head spin! My favorite courses were those that combined humanities with biology, specifically in the Anthropology department. A course I took called Biology of Difference sticks out to me because it was mainly a discussion-based course that allowed students to form and express their own opinions on biological issues. The professor always gave us “both sides of the story” so that we were completely informed on the issue which allowed us to create our own informed opinions on the issue.
Which came first, your interest in science or cheerleading?
Asia: My interest in science preceded cheerleading. When I was younger, my favorite subjects in school were always science and math. I became interested in medicine at an early age. My mother is an RN, so she has always supported me in my decision to pursue a career in a science field.
Best part of your studies?
Asia: While I was in school, the best part of my day would be attending classes in which the subjects involved real world issues or topics that I could relate to my life. For example, I remember doing a project my senior year on Bisphenol A (BPA) for my developmental biology class. I learned just how prevalent this chemical was, and how controversial its use and effects are. This chemical is most dangerous when exposed to fetuses and young children because it can interrupt normal development, yet the FDA allows manufacturers to include this in everything from baby bottles and “sippy cups,” to dental sealants and beverage containers. I loved learning about these topics because it had a direct effect on me and my life. Being consciously aware of toxins and harmful substances such as this helps me make informed decisions in my everyday life.
Do you find that stereotypes about cheerleaders helped or hindered your studies or professional experiences?
Asia: I think the stereotype could have potentially hindered certain experiences, but I typically don’t reveal that I am an NFL cheerleader unless it comes up in conversation. I am proud of my position on the team, and I believe that being humble is part of what makes the Patriots organization so special. By the time I tell someone that I’m a cheerleader, they have had ample time to form their own accurate account of who I am, rather than just going along with the stereotype. I firmly believe that if you hold that negative stereotype, you most likely have not met one of the ladies on the team.
Do you have any advice for youngsters who might feel torn between following one dream and another?
Asia: Follow both dreams if you are truly passionate about them. As long as you are committed and driven to putting in the time and effort that each dream demands of you, there is no reason that you cannot have both. I remember when I was in school, the labs for certain courses always fell on the same days as rehearsal, and often ran right up till the time I needed to get on the road to leave for practice. I would over-prepare the night before to ensure that I understood the procedures of that particular lab, in order to finish early and get to practice on time. There will always be little sacrifices here and there, but if they lead to you having achieved your goals and dreams then they are worth it!
Along these lines, what advice would you give your 12-year-old self?
Asia: My number one piece of advice would be to not worry so much about what other people think about you, and to work towards making yourself happy, rather than making others happy. When you’re younger, you put so much effort into fitting in and doing things in a way that is accepted by your peers. I wish I had not wasted so much time worrying about what people thought of me, my dreams, and my interests, as well as what they thought I could not achieve.
What are your plans for the future?
Asia: At the moment, I am preparing for the MCAT exam for medical school admission. I find the field of medicine so interesting. It is always changing whether it is a new drug that changes the course of treatment for a certain disease, or a new less invasive procedure created to speed up the patients’ recovery.
Best cheerleading experience?
Asia: There have been far too many amazing experiences to choose only one, but the three trips to the Caribbean to shoot our swimsuit calendar stick out in my mind. During the week, the squad not only shoots an incredible double sided 12 month calendar, but we interact with fans, participate in daily activities, and perform for the guests at the resort that we stay at. Because this occurs fairly soon after auditions, it gives the newly formed squad an opportunity to bond and get to know each other and is a great way to start a fantastic season together!
Best science-related experience?
Asia: So far, my graduation ceremony has been my most memorable experience. There were many times during my college experience when I felt like giving up because I had so much on my plate. Between commuting three hours twice weekly for rehearsal, having a part time job, modeling, and being a full-time student, I often became overwhelmed. I am very proud of my degree in biology, and have my mother to thank for always supporting and encouraging me when I felt like giving up.
What’s one thing people might find especially surprising about you?
Asia: One thing that people find surprising about me is that I love to cook and I am good at it! My Italian grandmother introduced me to cooking when I was very young and I have loved it ever since. I was recently given the opportunity to conduct a cooking segment on a news morning show and it was an amazing experience.
If you could rewind the clock and change your degree, would you? If so, to what and why? If not, why not?
Asia: I don’t think I would change my degree because it would ultimately change who I am today. I worked really hard to earn my degree and to get through certain required courses that did not come easy to me. In order to really appreciate something, one needs to struggle and face road blocks in order to learn how to work hard and figure out ways to overcome them. If I had chosen an easier major, I wouldn’t have the work ethic that I have now and would never know that amazing feeling you get when your hard work has paid off.
Why do you want to be a Science Cheerleader?
Asia: I believe I possess the components necessary to be a Science Cheerleader because I have had adequate experience with both components.Science Cheerleaders must be positive role models to the younger generation as well which I believe I am. Growing up, I was always presented with the rule that if you do not keep up your grades, there will be no cheerleading. This gave me a positive outlook towards education and made me want to do well so that I could participate in the sport that I love. I am well rounded with a desire to keep learning and am equally passionate about science and cheerleading.