Lincoln Scholar spotlight: Combining the teachings of the humanities with the disciplines of science


Portrait of ASU student Sophia Page.

"The worst science exists in (a) vacuum," says Sophia Page, an ASU freshman majoring in applied biological sciences and a Lincoln Scholar. Photo courtesy Sophia Page

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Sciences and the humanities are often portrayed as at odds with one another, but for Arizona State University freshman Sophia Page, they are necessarily intertwined.

Page is one of the latest students to join the Lincoln Scholars program, which brings together a diverse group of students with varying beliefs, cultures and values who share a commitment to understanding and improving the communities to which they belong.

Here, she answers some questions about why she applied to the program, what she's looking forward to as a student at ASU and why the sciences and humanities need each other.

Question: You describe your life in terms of three words: Spanish, math and horticulture. Why did you pick those?

Answer: They are three interconnected and very big components of my life. I think Spanish is actually probably the biggest one, and it has been for the longest time. My parents put me in a dual language program from the time I was 4, and I would not be the same person today without that experience. I definitely wouldn't have as much compassion and empathy. I've had people tell me that I have a lot of empathy. It's a strange combination, because I'm a very straightforward person, but also very empathetic.

Math, the second noun, is also a very big component of my life. I have always been advanced in my math classes; the first time a teacher gave me an extra math worksheet was when I was in sixth grade. I was a student at Osborn Middle School. It was a Title 1 school, but they had an incredible math program. However, in high school, there was a very specific track for everybody, and that worked great for every other subject except for math, because a lot of people came in with different abilities. I was one of those students ahead in math, but I ended up stuck in an algebra class. I just kept pressing forward, and eventually I helped my school create a math track for the advanced students.

By the time the pandemic began in 2020, I was taking AP Calculus AB and had to finish the class online, and that experience showed me that math wasn't as important to me as I thought. I had spent so long thinking math was what I wanted to do with my life, but the pandemic turned it upside down and changed my entire career and education trajectory. After that, I didn't know what I wanted to do for a solid year and a half. 

I eventually found horticulture as a way to help myself help others. I wanted to be more self-sufficient, and over the pandemic, I realized how fragile and exploitative the food supply chain is. I found along that way that horticulture is also a great stress reliever, and it's something that truly makes me happy. Although I lost my passion for math during the pandemic, it definitely changed my life for the better.

Q: You also talked a bit in your application about developing a passion for immigration rights. Can you explain that? 

A: Yes, I’ve had a huge passion for immigration rights for a long time. It began when I was learning Spanish, and I grew up in schools that had a predominant Hispanic population. So I grew up around a lot of people who, if they weren't immigrants themselves, had family members who were. So many of them had relatives who had been deported and parents who were scared of being deported.

That was part of the reason why I wanted to join an immigration rights organization. It let me connect to a group that felt like home because I was surrounded by the Latino and Hispanic immigrant communities for my entire childhood.

Q: Can you share a bit about how you came to find the Lincoln Scholars program and why you wanted to join? 

A: I found it on the ASU scholarship portal. I applied to so many scholarships in my senior year of high school because I wanted to graduate without student debt. When I heard back from the Lincoln Scholars program, I remembered applying to it very distinctly, unlike some of the other scholarships I applied to. One of the things that really got me to apply to it, and to take an interest in it, was the course about applied ethics. I felt that was something that I would genuinely be interested in.

Q: How have the first few weeks of the semester been, now that you've been in the class?

A: I've loved it. I’m majoring in applied biological sciences, but most of my classes this semester are humanities. I'm taking a lot of discussion-based classes, and it's getting me to think more about how I treat technology and how I consider my place within a very technological world.

Q: Do you think that as a student of science your studies benefit from some aspects of the humanities as well?

A: Absolutely. I think that the worst science exists in (a) vacuum. When it does, you get science that just seeks to find out what we can do, and not what we should do. That is how we got a lot of the dangerous technologies that we have today. I’d like to say that I'm a well-rounded student, and learning from the humanities is going to make me a better scientist.

Q: As a freshman, what are you looking forward to most, or what do you hope to achieve in the coming years at ASU?

A: As much as I love plants, I’m not entirely sure as to what I want to do with my career, and my hope is that through ASU and a variety of classes and extracurricular experiences, I'll be able to narrow my focus down and find out what I like and what makes me happiest about the field that I chose.

A lot of people waste time in their lives doing things that they don't really want to do. I really liked math, but it wasn't for me. I am very lucky to have figured out something that makes me so happy. The world would be better if everybody felt like they were able to find their passion.

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