Daniella Olonilua is currently at the George Washington University working towards obtaining her bachelor’s degrees in Chemistry and Spanish. She is currently serving on the executive boards of the Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students and Globemed at GW for the 2016-2017 academic year. As an undergraduate student, Daniella is actively involved with the African Students Association, writes for the GW Hatchet newspaper, and volunteers with GW Impacto, a Spanish service-learning organization. She also conducts genetics research under the Biological Sciences Department and breast cancer research with the Biomedical Engineering Department at her university. Outside of the DC area, she has taught SAT preparatory courses for two years and continues to serve as a mentor for high school students from disadvantaged neighborhoods in New York.
Daniella Olonilua is a fantastic example of someone living the double agent life (just kidding). Studying Chemistry and Spanish at the same time is a really beautiful thing. Plus, she has a blog written in Spanish! Here she tells us what she thinks as a woman journeying and combining a Language course and a Chemistry course.
Can you tell us about your story and journey till now?
My parents say that when I was a little girl in primary school in Nigeria, my classmates and instructors nicknamed me “Computer Brain.” Whether or not that is true, I’m not sure since I personally do not remember. However, I do know that I’ve always loved mathematics and loved playing with numbers. I chose Chemistry as one of my majors because I went from simply liking the subject in high school to loving it when the time came to declare my sophomore year. My major challenges me daily and yes, it is difficult at times, but the “aha” moments are always satisfying.
Similarly, my love for reading began when I was a little girl. I was always the girl hiding a book under the desk in class because I could never put it down. As I got older, I became interested in creating my own stories, my own characters, my own world. A journal became a necessity because an inspiration for a short story or poem hit me at random moments or come from random interactions. Right now, I’m building up the courage to get at least one of my short stories or poems published, but the ultimate dream is to write a novel that resonates with and inspires others.
What moments led to you migrating in between two fields?
Although I’m completing a science degree, I’ve never once wanted to give up on my writing. I took a mandatory writing course my freshmen year and was told that my writing was exceptional and I should keep working on making it stronger. And so I did. Even though my plate gets full with trying to complete two degrees in four years while working a part-time job, I still try to fit in writing classes from my university. Writing is one of my greatest passions and I try to prioritize it whenever possible. There have been moments when I can’t solve a particular reaction so I put my work aside and switch to writing. Similarly, when I have writer’s block, figuring out a quantum mechanics problem helps me deal with that frustration.
In your experience and opinion, Why are we as humans insistent in creating a dichotomy between Science & Art? Is it just a labeling issue or something a bit more egotistic, or a difficulty to cohabit?
Drawing from my own experiences, I think one of the major issues contributing to this divide is that scientists do not respect artists and their works. This feeling is translated to society as a whole. People think of science as rigid and absolute, something that requires time and effort to be put in so that quality results can be put out. Art isn’t afforded the same luxury; it is thought of as a hobby, something that anyone can quickly pick up. There’s no appreciation for the artists’ investment into their work. A simple example of this is our education system: if high schools and universities need to reduce spending, officials are most likely to cut their Arts budget. I think this disconnect is unfortunate because both fields make significant and important contributions to our society. There is room for both to coexists but it will require more understanding and value to be given to the Arts.
And how can we make STEM & Arts/Humanities cross-pollinate better?
Before I attempt to answer this question, I just want to say that there are many ways to combine these fields and that no one answer is correct. However, I think a truly beneficial method is to integrate science and art at the education level. I volunteer with a nonprofit organization that does just that through a curriculum called STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics). I see the benefits of this type of integration with the kids that I work with, and I truly believe that if we prioritize STEAM-focused programs, the results would advantageous for everyone. There’s creativity in both of these fields that, when combined, is a sight to behold. Once we start fostering that interest at a young age, at home, and at school, we can build a society where there is a respectful coexistence between the Arts and STEM.