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  • As I approached him at the lightrail stop, Teja made eye contact that lasted longer than that of the rare but friendly "hello" from a fellow passenger. I'd been pestering people who didn't want to be pestered all day, so his I-want-to-speak-to-to-you gaze came as a surprise. He asked me a question, but I couldn't quite hear him.

    "Huh?" I asked.

    "Does it come every 20 minutes on Sundays?" he asked back.

    I didn't know it at the time, but this sort of question exemplified Teja's preference for concrete, quantifiable facts over the abstract.

    Teja moved here from Cedar Rapids, Iowa to pursue a masters in Biomedical Informatics, because he was tired of the job he landed after earning his computer science bachelors degree. "I wanted to do something biological instead," he told me. "I was thinking maybe something in the liberal arts, but my sister asked me what job I was going to get with that."

    Interestingly enough, the work he showed me on his laptop looked like it had nothing to do with humans and everything to do with computers. Rows and rows of numbers represented possible genetic mutations that could cause cancer. I was astounded and terrified that we all have so much data inside us, and that just one variation could wreak so much havoc on life. But Teja didn't seem too shaken.

    "Your questions are all very abstract," he told me. "I mean, I guess I could get into philosophy and talk about it all day, but I tend to look at things very specifically. Maybe it's my field of study, but I don't think about the abstract that much," he said. "I just try to be happy and balanced every day."
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