Liz Duffy '88, Head Master, the Lawrenceville School
Why I chose molecular biology
''You majored in what?'' Sixteen years after I graduated from Princeton, I still regularly get that response from people when they learn that I majored in molecular biology. Despite never having worked in science or medicine, I don't regret my choice of major. In fact, given the opportunity to select a major again (even knowing where my career path has led), I would make the same choice -- in a heart beat.
I chose to major in molecular biology because I love science, particularly how it is taught at Princeton. I can still remember my first chemistry ''hourly'' exam, which asked us to create a new periodic table given specific parameters. Till then, I never knew you could learn on a test.
Majoring in a relatively small department gave me incredible access to faculty. I had not one, but three thesis advisers -- two Princeton professors and a Princeton trustee, who heads a research institute at MIT and who has been a national leader in sequencing the human genome. They, and others, encouraged me to craft an academic program that reflected the full scope of my intellectual passions and interests.
With support from the department and the University, I held summer internships at the Trenton health department and the Hastings Center for Bioethics, and for my senior thesis I wrote a computer program that modeled genetic disease segregation, rather than undertake a traditional lab thesis.
Value to my career
I've spent my career working in education, mostly at educational foundations and now as head master of the Lawrenceville School. While I infrequently use my knowledge of molecular biology, I daily use the thinking, writing, and problem-solving skills that I honed, first as a molecular biology major at Princeton, and then in business school at Stanford. It is that intellectual confidence, gained through my close work with senior faculty, that has allowed me to pursue an admittedly unconventional, but nevertheless richly rewarding, career.