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Stephanie Smith

Stephanie Smith

Student of the Sciences

By Tai Moses

STEPHANIE SMITH DIDN'T PLAN ON GOING TO UCSC. AFTER graduating from Soquel High last June, she checked out Davis, but "It just didn't resonate with me."

She went to the Southwest and toured Northern Arizona University, but "I got lethargic there, not being next to the ocean."

So Stephanie chose UCSC, which "was just perfect for me."

And then the intensity of university life took hold with a vengeance--especially at 17 units a quarter.

"You're so engulfed in school you really don't have time to hang out. It takes over your life--it's like you're living in a bubble world. You almost have to close off the rest of the world," says the incandescent 18-year-old.

There's just barely enough room in the bubble for an extracurricular interest or two to squeak by. She still rides horses, dances with a local Polynesian dance troupe, and until recently, she volunteered with Save Our Shores.

Stephanie didn't always lead such a structured existence. She was born in Santa Cruz, but from the age of 9 to 13, she lived on the island of Kauai.

"I've already experienced the wild and crazy life, running around and living in teepees." She speculates that her academic career is her way of "rebelling" against her mom and dad, whom she calls "a New Age hippie" and "an old age hippie."

"I'm majoring in biology, and right now I'm kind of wavering between biology, biochemistry or molecular and cellular developmental biology.

"I have lots of interests, so it's hard to choose," she adds in typically earnest fashion.

Does she know what she wants to do?

"Well actually, I do. I've known it for probably a year. I actually want to go into the medical field."

Stephanie has a thirst for knowledge that doesn't always wait for the slowly moving wheels of academia to catch up. When she's interested in something she takes matters into her own hands; for instance, her fascination with exploring the environmental causes of cancer.

"I kind of went onto this cancer tangent for a while, learning about it on my own."

Her first quarter at UCSC she went to Dominican Hospital and shadowed two doctors.

"One was an oncologist and I sat in with the patients asking questions, watched what they were doing."

She also shadowed another doctor who was the head of the staff of infectious diseases and strange viruses.

"I actually found that to be even more interesting. She was really great, she just took me under her wing and just told me everything." She pauses. "It was definitely intense for somebody of my age and my experience, I think. Both [doctors] were asking me, 'Aren't you young to be already getting out and looking at this?'"

But Stephanie is used to that reaction.

"I liked it--because that's what I did in high school. I kind of went out and learned things on my own."

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Readers' Choice Awards

Best Food & Drink
Best Music & Nightlife
Best Goods & Services
Best Sports & Recreation
Best Arts
Best People & Places
Best Write-Ins

Critics' Choice Awards

Jesse Davis: All the Shoes That Fit
Stuart Finch: Rock Balancing Act
Isabel Piekarski: Latin Dance Sensation
Juan Cuellar: Compassionate Warrior
Nate Brunskill: Film Fanatic
Warren Odell: Tour Guide to an Anomaly
Sarah Gerhardt: Woman Who Rides Mountains
Seema Weatherwax: Late-Blooming Photographer
Theo Paige: The Not.So.Mad Fiddler

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From the March 21-28, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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