The only thing I associated with both Wisconsin the state and Wisconsin the university was cheese. For some irrational reason, I believed our campus tour would include shrines to cheese, statues of cheese, and endless cheese boutiques (is there such a thing?). In that respect, I was sorely disappointed. In every other respect, I was anything but. My mental checklist for colleges, after much condensing, contained three bullet points. Firstly, and most importantly, I wanted to go somewhere academically rigorous and research intensive, with innovative, dedicated professors and students as dedicated as I was. Secondly, I wanted a beautiful campus, to love where I would live for four years. And thirdly, I wanted to be happy.
After seeing the towering monuments to research, the countless labs and classrooms and libraries, I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the University of Wisconsin was dedicated to providing its students with the best education possible, be it in the classroom or the lab. I knew my love for the molecular basis of life would be cultivated here like so many cell cultures.
I remember boiling down cabbage with my dad to make acid/base indicators, talking in the car about the differences between branched and unbranched hydrocarbons in gasoline. In elementary school, my teacher wrote in my recommendation that I had been spending too much time reading animal books and too little time playing with other kids. I loved (and still love) all things living, often marvelling at the complexity of the animal kingdom, the human body, the organs, and the cells that were the foundation for everything else. The first time I read about the process of translation, of rendering mRNA into proteins, my eyes filled with tears; this is what I wanted to do, to apply the chemistry that had defined my childhood to my love of biology.
The University of Wisconsin shares that passion, dedicating a plethora of resources, both intellectual and material, to its Biochemistry department. With technologies like biolayer interferometry, classes in the molecular control of metabolic disease, and distinguished professors, the University of Wisconsin Madison has everything any biochemistry undergraduate student would need, and much more. To research under a PI like Dr. Venturelli, listed among 33 other researchers as “the Future of Biochemistry” would be an unequalled opportunity, a dream fulfilled. Her work in drawing links between microbiome health and malnutrition in third-world countries does what the University of Wisconsin does best; making academic discoveries both relevant and essential in the real world. It is a culture I would be honored to take part in, should I be accepted.
Although the University of Wisconsin Madison undoubtedly satisfied the first item on my mental list, I was sure my last two criteria would not go unmet. Located along the shore of Lake Manitoba and in walking distance of Madison, rated one of the best small cities in America by National Geographic, the University of Wisconsin Madison provides the ideal setting to learn, be challenged, and simply have fun. Walking by the lakefront with music playing in the background, I was sure that four years at the University of Wisconsin Madison would be challenging, but fun nonetheless. Our two tour guides embodied the Wisconsin spirit, recounting feeling the ground shake during “Jump around” and being pelted with snowballs after rushing Bascom Hill. Walking off of campus with my dad, salted caramel ice cream in hand (courtesy of “A Daily Scoop”), I felt a visceral sense of belonging, of knowing that this is where I wanted to learn and develop as a citizen of the world.