Jon Bjornstad


In 1967, when I graduated from high school, my career path was clear; I aimed to be a professor and research mathematician. My talents were clearly in the area of mathematics and related exact disciplines. In 1971 when I graduated from UCSC with a degree in mathematics my plans were much the same although I was beginning to have some doubts about whether pure mathematics was truly for me. I attended the University of Maryland for graduate study and by 1974 my doubts had become clear. I had earned a masters degree in topology but also had realized that mathematics had lost its charm for me. [[ The academic challenge had also become rather too difficult. Ph.D.'s are not given away! ]] Although I valued the education I had received and the clarity of thought I had developed, I didn't feel that I wanted to devote my life to a field that was so pure, abstract, and in some ways, isolated.

After unsuccessfully seeking a position as a Junior College teacher I was hired as a computer programmer for the Census Bureau. I found that I had a talent for programming and that there was beauty in Computer Science, too. I did well at that job and felt very fulfilled.

In 1976 a rising curiousity about nutrition, whole foods, and natural healing led to my making some experiments with my diet. They proved to be rather interesting and my curiousity became very intense. I read widely on the subject of nutrition and natural healing finding many books to be full of common sense and scientific validity. Many others were fanatical, mystical, wild, and crazy.

In 1977 my career path had become unsure again. Although I had developed my skills as a programmer and although those skills were in great demand, I felt a need, a desire to change my career, to devote my energies to natural healing and the prevention of illness through improved nutrition. I quit my job at the Census Bureau, returned to California and planned to take the necessary prerequisite courses in biology and chemistry at UCSC. My plans did not work out; the timing was not right. What did happen was that I lived in Aptos, CA for a year and "pursued my curiousity" by attending lectures, classes, seminars, and doing extensive reading. Santa Cruz was very good for this. At that time, and in that area, there was a great deal of activity related to nutrition and natural healing; a great deal of experimentation.

In 1978 I returned to work as a programmer for Amdahl Corporation in Sunnyvale, CA. I had several reasons for not following through with my plans to change my career:

  1. Money. My savings were depleted.
  2. I doubted whether I had the necessary talents for a field that was so controversial and inexact as nutrition. I felt that I could use my talents more fully in an exact discipline such as mathematics or computer science.
  3. There were so many half-truths and fantasies in natural healing and I didn't feel comfortable identifying myself with them.
  4. Neither my family, friends, the scientific community, or society as a whole seemed to support me.
Now, in 1981, after working for Amdahl for 3 years and accumulating considerable savings, I still feel a desire to develop whatever talents I have to help people improve the quality of their nutrition. The fact that this desire has persisted for 4 years indicates to me that it is valid and not merely a temporary impulse.

I now have a clearer idea of my aims, too. They aren't quite as lofty and unrealistic as they once were. In 1977 my plan was to become a naturopathic physician and help people heal cancer, arthritis, and heart disease with fasting, herbs, a vegetarian natural diet, exercise, and vitamins. Although I still regard these methods as valid, more realistically I would like to get an advanced degree in nutrition, establish myself as a respected scientist worth listening to, and encourage people to eat a more natural diet. If I could simply help people eat more fruit and less candy, that would be enough (or at least a start).

I envision myself as either a nutrition consultant, a physician's assistant, a dietician, a government advisor, or a teacher of nutrition. As a first step I need to get a background in biology and chemistry and I can imagine no better place than my alma mater, UCSC. I would need to begin at the beginning. I would like to get a B.A. in biology with related courses in chemistry, physiology, psychology, and sociology. These would be arranged with the aim of pursuing an advanced degree at another school, perhaps UC Berkeley or UC Davis.

I will be able to support myself with my savings and also by tutoring in mathematics and computer science. I feel that someone of my experience would be a good addition to the university community and could help students get a true idea of what it means to be a mathematician or a computer programmer.

As a final note, I now think of myself as a mathematician on his way to being a nutritionist who is currently a computer programmer!

I thank you for your patience.