Elizabeth Weingartner '13
Biochemistry major Elizabeth (Liz) Weingartner realized life sciences was her chosen profession as a freshman in high school. Liz remembers “Biology was my favorite class; I looked forward to it every day. My mother loves to remind me of the day early into my freshman year that I called her at work after school and told her I was going to be biology major.” After visiting a variety of universities, Liz realized that, with a degree in science, there were basically two postgraduate higher education options – medical school or graduate school. Unsure of which avenue she wanted to pursue, Liz looked for a university that would allow her to explore both options. She explains, “I chose DePauw for many reasons but mainly because it was the only university of those I visited, big and small, that promised me I could get involved in research my first year on campus.” Thanks to the Science Research Fellows program, it didn’t take Liz long to decide where she saw her future going. She also realized that Biochemistry was the best avenue to get there.
Now, confidently committed to working towards a doctorate in Immunology, Liz credits the ample amount of time she was able to spend in the lab for her decision. “I knew that research was what I wanted to do with my life one afternoon when I was sitting in a professors office with my summer lab group and we were brainstorming all the different ways we could deal with the roadblocks we had been hitting in our research lately,” she recalls. “I love knowing that, with a career in research, I will be able to critically think and problem solve every day and then immediately see my ideas go into action.”
Liz has also taken full advantage of DePauw’s liberal arts education and will graduate with a minor in German. Liz has worked on four different research projects during her four years at DePauw; her pinnacle project allowed her to combine her love of science and German culture: a 10 week internship in Berlin, Germany at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics. It was during her first year on DePauw’s campus that Liz attended an information session regarding prestigious fellowships and scholarships. “There was one that really caught my attention and I thought to myself, ‘I am going to do that, I need to do that before I leave DePauw’,” she describes. The program was the DAAD RISE, a summer internship sponsored by the German government for non-German students interested in science or engineering. After utilizing advice from many different DePauw advisers, Liz received a scholarship and an invitation to spend the summer in Germany during her last few weeks as a sophomore. She confesses, “I opened the email while I was in a chemistry lab class and I was so excited that I literally ran out of lab and down the hall to tell my advisor and then called my parents.”
She so thoroughly enjoyed her time in Germany doing research and traveling that she hopes to return in the future, if possible during her graduate studies. “The experience was life changing for me,” states Liz. “My time at Max Planck was spent working on a Rheumatoid Arthritis project. It undoubtedly confirmed my choice to pursue research as career.” Before Berlin, with two more years of her undergraduate education still ahead, Liz was still exploring what area of life science she wanted to focus on in graduate school. Luckily, her summer in Berlin answered that question. “I walked into the lab knowing nothing about immunology and walked out three months later wanting to learn everything I possibly could about immunology.” Upon returning to DePauw that fall, Liz took an Immunology course in the Biology department and loved it. “You know you have found your niche when you never fall asleep during an 8 AM class,” she jokes.
As a senior, Liz is very content with the way she utilized her four years at DePauw. She feels she has taken full advantage of the opportunities available to her, both in the science department and throughout campus life. Liz is grateful for how supportive and helpful the faculty at DePauw has been. “I am so thankful for the Science Research Fellows Program,” she exclaims. “Had I not had the opportunity to explore the world of research, I would still be contemplating whether to attend medical school or graduate school next year.” Liz’s advice to younger students is to get out there and gain experience to see what is captivating and inspiring. “I had one Winter Term Internship where I analyzed numerical data,” she recalls. “I really didn’t enjoy being in an office all day, in front of a computer but I was glad I figured that out over a Winter Term and not after years of schooling.”
Next year, Liz plans to attend graduate school and pursue a doctorate in Immunology. Her long-term goals involve working in an environment where current research is being utilized in medical practice. Liz also plans to keep up with other interests she has cultivated in DePauw’s liberal arts community, such as Women’s Issues and her sorority, Alpha Chi Omega.