Brendan Hermerding ‘19, Chemistry

Posted on May 16th, 2018 by

Brendan Hermerding’s interest in science has been “a lifelong journey”. Throughout his time in school he enjoyed his science classes. Brendan’s interest in science became even more important in middle school, and in sixth grade his favorite class was physical science. Once he started high school, he took upper level science courses that “got me more and more interested”. Brendan was the first person in his family to be interested in the physical sciences, and because of this his interest in science is “something I was always proud of”, saying “this is kind of my thing and this is how I’m different from my siblings”.

Although Brendan is confident about his interest in science, he’s not sure what field or industry he’ll end up in. Brendan says that he “came in like every other first-year thinking pre-med”. After working in an eye clinic for two summers, as well as doing a Career Exploration related to medicine, he realized that “this never anything I wanted to do, it was always something that society wanted me to do”. This realization was “very hard, because I didn’t know what I wanted to do”. Brendan’s current goal is “to embrace the chaotic nature that is my life”. He doesn’t know what he wants to do after college, but he is certain that “I want to enjoy whatever I end up doing”.

Brendan has a wide range of talents and gifts. He says that his family is “all pretty musical, and I’m no exception”. He’s played piano and bass for many years. Brendan also believes that he is “somewhat creative”. Recently, he’s gotten into Dungeons and Dragons, saying that he’s “delved into the storytelling aspect” and that it’s “been a lot of fun and I’ve enjoyed it”. Brendan tries to be a positive person, especially when it comes to “the chaotic nature” of his life. He tries to step back when things go wrong and focus on “how I’ll learn from this”. Putting things into perspective like this is something Brendan thinks he’s gotten better at.

Brendan has been greatly influenced by his parents. Right now, as he’s “planning his life”, he’s looked up his dad’s example. Brendan’s dad majored in Biology because his father wanted him to become a veterinarian, even though Brendan’s dad knew that it wasn’t what he wanted to do. Instead, he taught English in Japan for four years, came back, went to law school, became a lawyer, and is now a judge. This journey resonates with Brendan, as he finds himself “in the same place”. He is also inspired by the good that his dad was done for the community of Brainerd by working with programs and organizations that help people struggling with addiction. Brendan describes this as rehabilitation happening in the community, and thinks that it’s incredibly powerful that he “saw people get better”. He has also been influenced by his mother, who raised six kids and worked at the same time. Brendan says that neither of his parents had particularly easy lives, but he’s “proud of where they’ve brought me”. His parents have supported him in his vocational uncertainty, and instead of telling him to simply push through they’ve encouraged him to take a step back and examine his options.

In many ways, Brendan’s life is centered around a few core beliefs. He says that religion has never “been an emphasis of my life”, but he does think it might have guided him to where he is. Brendan believes that “everyone’s just trying to live”, and he thinks that “it’s everyone’s duty to make everyone’s life easier”. He says that because “we’re one species”, we should work together for good, and has found that it’s much easier to make other people’s lives better than it is to make them worse. Sometimes, “that’s as simple as thanking someone”. In one of the eye clinics where Brendan worked, there was a poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson displayed. Titled “Success”, it ended with the line “knowing that one life has breathed easier because you have lived”. This is how Brendan defines success, and how he chooses to live his life.

Brendan is concerned by some scientific issues. He’s scared by “the thought that all of our thoughts are electrical signals”, saying that “part of me is always hoping that there’s something more”. Looking at life from a perspective of pure physical chemistry would suggest that “we are chemicals” and that “we’re all just here by chance”. Another issue that concerns Brendan is “what’s beyond the universe”. He says that wondering about this “keeps me up for days”. Brendan wonders what happened before the universe, what will happen after the universe, and where everything came from. In science, there are also “ethical issues that you always have to grapple with”. Brendan is concerned about the possibility that “something I’m doing impacts someone negatively and I don’t even realize it”. These are huge questions that worry him.

Over the course of his life, Brendan’s beliefs have changed. He was raised Christian, but first started questioning that faith in seventh grade when he learned about evolution. For the first time, he had to start asking how science “fit into my faith narrative”. Brendan continued to have moments in which what he was learning in school didn’t fit with what he’d been taught about religion. He isn’t sure the exact moment when he became uncomfortable identifying himself as religious, characterizing it as a gradual decline and a process of accepting “scientific truth”. Brendan is not religious, but because of his background he says that he understands where religious people are coming from.

Brendan’s search for his vocation is informed by his values and convictions. He’s always wanted someone to say in the future, even if it’s thirty or forty years from now, that “I am the way I am because of Brendan Hermerding”. Brendan defines success as making other people’s lives easier. This is why he was originally drawn to medicine, as the medical field is a concrete way to have a positive impact on the lives as others. Although his vocational goals have shifted, Brendan still wants to have a career that makes a difference.


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