Debra Auguste writes letter to her younger self

Blog for the Science Club for Girls offers words of encouragement and wisdom that can only be gleaned from hindsight

To celebrate Women’s History Month in March, Science Club for Girls invited women in science/engineering/technology to contribute a “Letter to my Young Self”.

A contribution from Debra Auguste, Assistant Professor of Bioengineering in the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), is below.

When faced with the decision of where to pursue her higher education, Debra was determined to attend MIT and Princeton for her undergraduate and graduate studies.

Dear Debbie,

I know you won’t believe this but I know you better than you know yourself. You will have to trust me on this one. I know that you are struggling to find out who you are. You keep changing your nickname trying to reinvent yourself. It really doesn’t matter if you are Debby with a ‘y’, Debbie with an ‘ie’, or Teri (from your middle name). You are still you. Eventually, you will find being plain Debra is ok and anyone that calls you Debbie will get a dirty look.

Take a deep breath. Enjoy your life right now. I’m about to offer you some advice on things you are doing well and things you could improve. Let me tell you a couple of things that will help prepare you for your future.

1. Invest in yourself. Stop putting things off. You can be lazy. Lucky for you, many things come easily. But, there will be a few things that will take some hard work. Doing more than what’s required will help get you noticed by the right people. Stop watching TV and go read a book.

2. The one thing you have going for you is your stubbornness. Your parents know exactly what I mean. But eventually, you will use your stubbornness for positive things and then people will see it as perseverance and determination. This will get you through the tough times in undergrad at MIT and graduate school at Princeton. Yes, big name schools for you.  But that’s also because you were so stubborn you applied.  No one could talk you out of it. Trust me it won’t be easy once you get there but you won’t give up. You will use these opportunities to launch a career, one where you will be able to make a difference.

3. You have surrounded yourself with positive people whom are all going to help encourage you in your pursuits. You will have shoulders to cry on and people to celebrate with along your journey.  Keeping these positive people in your life is key to your success and theirs. Some of your friends will take big risks, like starting their own business. Be there for them too.

4. You don’t need to rush. Take it easy. Again, in all things you do you speed through it. Take your time. Enjoy the sights, smells, and sounds all around you.  It’s true what they say about it not being the destination, but the journey that is important. Plus, it will save you from going to court for that speeding ticket. If you don’t heed this advice be warned that a judge is going to call your dad. That is one surprise you won’t need.

You may think you know it all now, but in a few decades you will realize that you know a lot about only a little.  That’s ok because happiness is not in how much you know or in how much money you have. It’s in the relationships you build.  You will have friends that will make you laugh, children that will make you giggle, and a spouse to share your hopes and dreams. That’s really all you need, so all the hard work is worth it.

Yours truly,



Debra Auguste is an assistant professor of bioengineering at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). She wants to develop novel biomaterials for drug delivery and stem cell engineering (replacing or repairing damaged tissues). Her lab tries to understand how the development of cells into structures can be affected by a variety of chemical, mechanical, and other environmental signals.

Debra received her bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and her Ph.D. in chemical engineering from Princeton University. She has presented her research and shared her life journey with Junior Mentors at Science Club for Girls.

This is a guest post to the Letter to My Young Self project, in celebration of Women’s History Month.

Topics: Diversity / Inclusion, Bioengineering