Kathryn Wong's Classroom
Director of Studies
I teach biology, with a focus on molecular and cell biology.
Depending on your preexisting knowledge of biology and related fields, there are many different places to start learning. One of the best ways to gain an instinctive grasp of the natural world is simply to explore, observe and record. Watch how animals interact with one another and with their environment. Study plants and think about why they look, smell, taste, and feel the way they do.
As you progress in your studies, it’s helpful to complement basic observation with a more structured understanding. Biology is an enormous field built on empirical studies that have over time given rise to unifying theories. In order to make sense of it all, we categorize our knowledge in various ways. Think of biochemistry, which focuses on organic molecules like proteins and DNA, versus anatomy, which focuses on organs systems within the body.
If you’re just starting out, I would recommend investing in an introductory biology textbook. Campbell Biology is a popular choice. If cost is a prohibitive factor, you can also find an open access textbook here.
For students interested in a career in medicine, I would suggest reading When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi. This memoir is an excellent window into life as both a physician and a patient, and it touches on the more humanistic aspects of the field.
For students interested in a career in research, I would suggest spending some time reflecting on which topics within biology you are most interested in, then looking up related journal articles to read. Biological research is very much a field built on past discoveries, and it’s helpful to develop a historical perspective as you are starting out.
For students interested in virology and infectious diseases, I would suggest reading The Hot Zone by Richard Preston. For students interested in microbiology, I would suggest reading I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yong. For students interested in genetics and genomics, I would suggest reading The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins.
I am currently an MD-PhD candidate at USC/Caltech. I graduated from UC Berkeley in 2017 with a degree in Molecular and Cell Biology. During my time there I worked in the laboratory of Dr. John Kuriyan, where I studied regulation mechanisms of the MAPK pathway. In addition to academic research and medicine, I spent about a year in industrial biotech working on antibody development and production at Abcam.
Los Angeles, California
Molecular and Cell Biology
Research and Medicine