Shimer College

March 23, 2015

What Does Shimer Have to do With Gators or Ripped Tendons?

Funny story, but it actually has a lot to do with those things. At least, it does to student Natalie Moss.

My decision in coming to Shimer was based off three things: scholarships (which has nothing to do with the coming story), Natural Sciences, and access to IIT courses. When I found out that I could concentrate in general science as well as take specific science courses at IIT, I knew I had to come here.

See, there are two things I want to do with my career: I either want to train to become a physical therapist, or I want to become a herpetologist. Give me human bodies or give me snakes! If one doesn’t pan out, then I have the other, which would be equally as awesome.

I got an interest in physical therapy when I was practicing the Japanese martial art aikido in Miami (that’s home for me). My sensei is a physical therapist, so when people would get hurt during class she would help them heal and take care of their injury. When she had her daughter, she couldn’t come into the dojo all that often to take care of her. So, one day, she came up to me and told me that she was going to teach me some of the things she knew so that, if someone got hurt and she wasn’t there, I would be able to help them.

After a few lessons, it became clear to me that I really enjoyed doing it. Working with the mechanics of the human body was so much fun. How the body moves and contours is definitely a work of art, and I loved understanding how all the pieces of the machine come together to function. It also helped that I was studying forensics in school at the time, which added to my anatomical knowledge and understanding.

Now, I could have gone to a bunch of colleges for physical therapy. Right back home there’s an amazing physical therapy school (University of Miami), so why come all the way to Chicago? Other than the fact that I was already in Chicago for City Year and scholarships (and the fact that Miami weather is disgusting), Shimer had something for me that UM didn’t: general knowledge. I would have been on the fast tract to getting my physical therapy doctorate, but that’s all I would be able to do with my knowledge and time. If physical therapy didn’t work out, I would have to go back to school to learn something else.

At Shimer, I can pursue a pre-med track at IIT while still studying general Natural Sciences to gain more knowledge about the sciences. If I realize that I don’t actually want to be a physical therapist because, I don’t know, biochemistry is actually where it’s at, then I can always switch what I’m learning at IIT without messing up my core curriculum. It also gives me a different perspective to how I study physical therapy.

Now, I already have a plan 1A if plan A doesn’t work (I don’t want to call herpetology plan B because it’s not below my original plan). I’ve always had a knack with reptiles, ever since… well, technically, since I was a baby. My dad has been rescuing animals since before I was born, and since no one wants to deal with reptiles, he was the one who took them. If someone couldn’t keep their snake or someone found an iguana in their house, my dad would swoop in like a khaki-clad Batman and save the day. None of that changed when he had kids; in fact, now he had help with his mission.

We always had the best pets because of my dad’s propensity to pick up animals, not just reptiles. From giant Burmese pythons to bats to caimans (of which my mother was not to pleased) to skunks to legless lizards, we had them and loved them all. My favorites were always the snakes, especially the ball python we have now. Dragoon is about 22-years-old, 5 feet 4 inches long (I’m 5 foot), and the sweetest crotchety old man there ever was.

Because of the fact that we grew up around various types of snakes and lizards, my sister and I got good at taking care of them. My dad taught us how to feed them, how to tell if they were stressed or agitated, how to care for them if they were sick… and I loved it. There’s just something about the way a snake connects with people that’s so unique compared to how a dog or a cat connects with people.

My dad has connections around South Florida with people who take care of reptiles, so of course we were able to expand our horizons in regards to what types of reptiles we could work with. I got interested in working with gators when I made friends with someone who worked at the gator sanctuary Bob’s Outpost.

Crocodilians are fascinating animals. From their terrible turning radius to their retractable eyes, they are amazing creatures. Ridiculously strong and really dangerous if you don’t know how to handle them (sometimes even then), they are so fun to work with. They can never take the place reserved in my heart for snakes, but they are a close second in terms of adoration.

Because herpetology is such an obscure field to work in, Shimer offers me a great way to study reptiles while still making myself marketable. We’re able to make tutorials (or small classes in whatever you want) here at Shimer, so I would be able to make a class on, for example, reptile vemons and neurotoxins or care and classification of snakes. In all, Shimer will allow me to study what I want while still leaving my options open for a change in interest or need.

Whether or not I work with human bodies or reptiles or, I don’t know, genetics, I just know that I want to do science, and Shimer is really well set up for people who want to do science without knowing exactly which science they want. Of course, most people who go to Shimer do Humanities or Social Science, but the Natural Sciences concentration is made for people who want to do general science and learn about how science came to be. No matter what I end up doing, I’m just happy that I’ll be able to do science.

-Natalie Moss ’18