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Taking my eyes off the MCAT books and Aggie trinkets lining the shelves, I looked back at the professor speaking to me. This office in the back of Heldenfels 315 had become my second home throughout the semester—the place I beelined to after my 8 a.m. lecture. But as I sat in my normal armchair, every word Dr. Christopher Lee ’93 ’00 ’14 spoke about mammalian order went in one ear and out the other. My brain was swirling with thoughts of what I would do after I left his office: apply to internships, study for exams, figure out what I wanted to research and a million other things.

Hilary Nguyen ’26 shares how her mentor, Dr. Christopher Lee, influenced her perspective on pressure and success and provided valuable life lessons during her freshman year at Texas A&M University.

As I started packing my bag, Dr. Lee asked me a question.

“How are you doing?”

Like the broken record he says he is, Dr. Lee always asks this once I’m done bombarding him with questions. I typically give him a short answer. Fine. Holding up. Good. Tired. But that day, I didn’t feel like leaving his office and responded with a few more words.

“I’m so overwhelmed and worried about everything. It feels like I’m on the last lap of the mile test in gym class, and my asthma just decided to kick in.” 

Dr. Lee smiled at me, and I was baffled. I had never felt under so much pressure, and he was smiling. But it was what he said that surprised me even more.

“The pressure you feel is a privilege,” he said. “It means people believe in you because they know you can accomplish whatever you put your mind to.”

To say that Dr. Lee’s words that day, and every other message of encouragement he’s told me during office hours, have had an immense impact on me would be an understatement. I had never considered the idea that pressure could be good. But Dr. Lee changed my perspective. I know I have a lifetime of pressure waiting for me, but his advice reminds me to see the silver lining when it feels like the weight of the world is on my shoulders.

Finding a mentor like Dr. Lee was the most welcome surprise of my freshman year of college. I’m thankful he’s like a broken record; it means that his messages will be engraved in my brain as I navigate the rest of my life.

A few other quips I'll always have on repeat:

  • “Sacrifice and success live on the same street.”
  • “A life in the sciences is difficult, but that’s what makes it rewarding.”
  • “I make suggestions; you make decisions.”
  • “Mother nature is not teleological. She does not operate with a plan, purpose or motive.”
  • “Starch, sleep, study. Your brain is your greatest asset, and it runs on glucose.”

Hilary Nguyen ’26 is a biomedical sciences major from Houston, Texas. When she’s not reading collections of Nora Ephron essays or putting Lego sets together, Hilary likes to attend concerts and explore eateries with her friends and family. She considers herself a fried tofu connoisseur!

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