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Public Service Student Profiles

Find out more about what it means to engage in biology-related public service by hearing from some undergraduates who've done it:

  • Jill Suzikida: Bringing food to people with HIV/AIDS and other life-challenging illnesses
  • Joshua Shapiro: Community-based research on childhood obesity to improve a children's gardening program
  • Kilah Wenzel: Community-based research to help people with Multiple Sclerosis exercise more comfortably and effectively

Jill Suzikida

UW–Madison graduate Jill Suzikida, BS ‘07, a biology and economics major, spent most of her senior year in Washington D.C. serving as an AmeriCorp volunteer with the National AIDS Fund. As an undergraduate, Jill volunteered at UW Children’s Hospital, served as a biology major peer advisor and organized blood drives with the GiveLife organization. In the fall of 2008, Jill returned to her native Minnesota to attend medical school at the University of Minnesota. Before departing from Madison, she answered questions about her public service experiences.

How have public service experiences enhanced your education or career goals?

Public service is a constant reminder of why you are pursuing a career goal – it makes the hours in the library a little more bearable when you know that one day you can hopefully be in a position to make a bigger difference.

Tell us about your experience in Washington, D.C. What was your role? How did the year inform your career or personal goals?

I work for the National AIDS Fund AmeriCorps program at a non-profit organization that provides meal delivery and nutritional counseling for people living with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other life-challenging illnesses. My role allowed me to do a lot of home visits with our clients, which allowed me to put a face on these diseases and observe how they affect people’s lives outside of a medical setting – the effect on their family, caregivers, mental health, social and work lives. I also learned a lot about their frustrations with access to health care, and challenges obtaining respectful and appropriate care.

You plan to attend medical school. How do you think these experiences will affect your studies and future practice?

The biggest thing has been exposure to a wide-range of people with very different life experiences. I think it makes you a stronger doctor when you can understand where people are coming from, and the factors that influence their decisions, especially when it’s a decision you disagree with.

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Biology 152 Student Profiles

Students enrolled in the Introductory Biology 151-152 have the option to complete an independent research project in their second semester. While many students choose to work in campus labs, others decide to team up with a community organization and conduct a community-based research project, supported by a University mentor and the Center for Biology Education. Below are two recent examples of Biology 152 community-based research projects.

Joshua Shapiro

Year during project: Sophomore

Academic majors: Kinesiology-Exercise Science; Certificate in Business

Career goals: Medicine, Public Health

What was the goal of your project?

To complete a literature review detailing the current trends of childhood obesity and utilize the findings to analyze and improve the Children’s Gardening Program at Troy Community Gardens.

Why did you choose a community-based research project?

I wanted to do something that was different than the average project and the opportunity to make a difference in the community was enticing.

Did the project support your career goals?

Definitely! Through this project, I was able to focus on a very important aspect of public health. I feel that my project affected the community on a very immediate level and in a very positive manner.

Would you recommend community-based research to other students?

I would recommend community-based research, as it was a means of experiencing what “real-world” science is all about. The more I worked on this project, the more I was drawn in. I realized what the effects of science are when directly applied to a very deserving community.

What was your favorite part about the experience?

Working with my mentors. Their experience is an invaluable resource for undergraduates and was one of the greatest experiences I have had while at UW.

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Kilah Wenzel


Year during project: Sophomore

Academic major(s): Human Development and Family Studies.

Career goals: Physician Assistant

What the goal of your community-based research project?

My goal was to test the hypothesis that cooling environments can significantly enhance exercise performance and reduce subjective feelings of fatigue in patients with Multiple Sclerosis.

Why did you choose a community-based project?

It was the best fit for my personality. I love interacting with people and trying to better others’ lives, even if in the most minute way. Community-based research afforded me this opportunity to see firsthand my hard work benefit and improve the lives of other individuals.

How did your project affect your understanding of biology?

This project helped me understand the pathology of Multiple Sclerosis and the effects of the disease.

How did the project support your career goals?

The project afforded me the opportunity to look at a disease holistically: the pathology, symptoms, side effects, and the possible remedies to improve the lives of individuals with Multiple Sclerosis. I know this holistic approach will be extremely useful in my career.

What was your favorite part about your experience?

My favorite part of the experience was initiating a theory that in turn proved to benefit and enhance the lives of individuals with Multiple Sclerosis on a daily basis. I am also incredibly grateful for the chance to be exposed to the raw determination and personal courage of these individuals who suffer daily with their disabling disease of Multiple Sclerosis. They have touched me more than I can ever hope to express.

Would you recommend community-based research to other students?

Definitely. There is no greater reward than seeing your hard work and effort benefiting others directly.

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