The best gift for my mom on Mother’s Day

By Alex K. Pauling May 7, 2011

My mother came from a very poor family and her parents were not educated. She worked hard and earned a PhD in Australia through many scholarships. She became a biomedical scientist working for biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. She enjoys new drug discovery in the lab. When I was little, she spent long hours in the lab and was seldom home. I didn't understand the importance of her work--I just thought she loved her mice more than me. She never missed a birthday and the presents were always there, but time was what I wanted. With tears in my eyes I asked "Every mom is home by 6 pm but where is mine?" One day she quit her job realizing there are things more important to her than her work.

In 2003, my mom founded her own company (ActoKine Therapeutics, to discover new drugs to protect against radiation and viral infection. She has collaborated with the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, the US military and other laboratories on her new drug candidates. Determined to make these important medicines available to all, at minimal or no cost, she has not sought funding from venture capitalists and has taken no salary at all since starting the company. She also founded Student Vision ( and the Nobel-Pauling Symposia ( both non-profit organizations dedicated to advancing research opportunities for young scientists and students worldwide. She has funded much of the work of these organizations from her own pocket for Christmas Dim Sum Symposium for students who are away from home during the Christmas.

Since becoming her own boss, mom has more time for me, trying to help me excel in school and to get through the rough patches in the life of a teenager. I hate science but my mom helped me improve my science grade from D to C to B and then to A in primary school. My mom is far from a tiger mom. She lets me make my own decisions. She believes that doing what I love and doing what I am good at will be the path for my happiness and success. She hopes I will become useful for the society and the world.

Like many kids, I never knew what to get her on Mother's Day, so I did the same thing everyone else does: flowers, chocolates, more flowers. But it never felt right. My mom isn't like other moms. She should have something different, something special. I always looked, but never found the right thing. This year, however, I believe I finally found the perfect gift!

I decided to show her how much her example means to me. This year, I could really work hard and get a good grade on my biology exam. The result was as I had hoped, even though it came at the cost of hours and hours of studying and practice tests. My mom will be proud of me. If there is one thing that stuck in my mind about biology it is the idea of imprinting - the period when infants learn who their mothers are. Even though I might have found out a little later than most, I finally discovered who my mother is. She is my mother, and there will never be another. I love her.

Friendship makes me stronger

By Alex D. K. Pauling

Movie-making has excited me since I was young. I have always felt a sense of total fulfillment when watching a completed project. This emotional high would immediately prompt me to start another one. I can mainly explain my outbursts of energy at the time as a compulsion to create concrete things, perhaps as tangible evidence to prove my worth and justify my existence. I believe our creations will live on as our legacy. People often think I am too young to think like this, but I am determined to leave behind a body of achievement in the world.

Throughout my middle school years I worked on many films, performing all aspects including writing, acting and editing. Only rarely would I consider asking my friends to assist. In fact, as I became absorbed in making films, I neglected my friends and became isolated. My loneliness began to affect me adversely.

However, approaching freshman year, I discovered the importance of friendship—something I did not fully appreciate earlier. It was becoming increasingly difficult for me to be without friends whom I had known since kindergarten, even though I considered the activities they enjoyed—watching TV, playing video games—passive and time-wasting. I discovered that by neglecting social connections in favor of pumping out creative material, I had been missing the dynamic environment that is part of the human experience.

I decided to change by bringing my creative and social worlds together. The popularity of YouTube helped. It was a lot easier to get my friends interested in working on projects when the result would be posted on the Internet for the world to see. Growing up also helped me, as I was able to open up and let my friends work with me, instead of for me. Working together is more fun for everyone and also leads to a better result, as we brainstorm about scenes, plot progressions and dialogue. I was extremely thankful that my friends accepted me again, without displaying any signs that I had ever left. I believe friendship brightens my life and makes me stronger.

One night, I edited and polished the first film we made together and uploaded it to YouTube. I went to bed with a feeling of accomplishment. More importantly, I felt proud of my friends. I was glad to be back with the old crew, but it really was not the old crew anymore. It was a new and reformed crew with creative passion and undiscovered talent that just needed a little stimulus to be put into action and express itself.

The next morning, my friends were excited to see the film. They rushed to the computer lab before classes and searched for it on YouTube. I stood back, fulfilled, watching them gathered around the screen mesmerized by their own performances. I was moved when, at the end, my friend Matt turned around and asked: "So, when is the next film?"

Smoking is not cool but Creating is

By Alex K. Pauling, April 2011

I always did well in math and science, but my inner passion is the Arts. I have been more interested in people and the world that we all live in and must share. What makes me excited is telling their stories through my art. I would like to use my creative abilities to bring science closer to people. I have won a Massachusetts award for my video "Don't Fade Away-quit smoking", created 30 videos, written 700 songs and 300 poems and won a regional poetry out loud contest. My goal is to combine my love of art, filmmaking, writing music with science to enrich the world. Some people smoke for relaxation. Some smoke by themselves, hiding. Soldiers on duty nervously smoke. Dying soldiers on the battlefield asked for a smoke as their last wish. But kids and young people smoke because they think they will get a feeling of being high and cool. I don’t think it’s because they particularly like the taste of burning leaves in their mouths, or even because of the psychological effects of smoking. I believe it is more of an image thing.

Much of smoking’s allure today has faded. Kids did it as a form of rebellion against authority and "the establishment". I believe that we need to find a new "cool" for them. We should use the power of the Internet, music and film to help set a new standard of "cool". We can provide an opportunity for kids to create, act and perform at the Nobel-Pauling Symposium ( This symposium is to honor the life and works of my great grandfather, Linus Pauling who won two Nobel Prizes. My mom is the founder and I am a volunteer. The theme will be mixing the arts with science. We can showcase kids’ hidden talents and creative thinking, in poetry, music and film. This "new cool" needs to be wild, fun and contagious so as to infect more kids.

I will create a positive new message that smoking isn’t cool. Creating is a new cool, and smoking only gets in the way. I will make videos of their performances to post on my website ( Kids love to see their creations on the Internet with their stories touching people’s heart and their ideas spread like fire. Sponsors will donate prizes for the best creations. This will also lead to growing interest in public health, social work, education and community service.

Last, and maybe most importantly in our celebrity-obsessed culture, I will invite famous people (movie stars, sports figures and musicians etc.) to join us in spreading the word that "smoking is not cool". I believe that these popular people can make a difference if they try to positively influence the kids instead of helping tobacco companies advertise their cigarettes. I know for certain, that if these influential people don’t try, they won’t make any difference at all.