Megan WilliamsMegan Williams photo

Megan Williams: Class of 2016
Hometown: Papillion, Nebraska
Minors: Chemistry, Spanish, Psychology
Career Goal: Pharmacist
Campus Activities: Biochemistry Club, Pre-Pharmacy Club, MEDLIFE, Husker football games, kickboxing and Zumba classes at the Rec, Education Abroad

What is your advice for students exploring minors?
Minors are a great way to branch out from your core subject areas! If you are just beginning, browse the Undergraduate Bulletin to get a clearer idea of what each minor entails. After finding some that peak your interest, talk to your academic advisor. They are experts on the classes you’ll need and fitting them in your schedule so they are great for helping you make a final choice.

Have you added or changed a minor since your time at UNL began?
I added my Psychology minor more than halfway into my freshman year. I took A.P. Psychology in high school and I thought some aspects of the class were fascinating. I took a developmental psych class as a pre-pharmacy requirement and it renewed my interest in the field. When I talked to my advisor, adding that minor didn’t change my planned classes much and so it was easy to work into my four-year degree plan.

Why did you choose a Spanish minor?
Foreign languages have always interested me because of my desire to travel. I took Spanish through all of high school and I loved it! Knowing even just some Spanish made me feel connected with others who know Spanish, even if I’d never met them. I knew before college began that I wanted Spanish as a minor.

What opportunities will this minor give you?
One of the opportunities that I am most excited about is studying abroad. Though you can do this without studying a foreign language, I think it makes it much more challenging. During the summer of 2014 I plan on traveling to Toledo, Spain to immerse myself in a new culture and get credit towards my minor. In the future, I believe that knowing Spanish will also help me to communicate with others when I work as a pharmacist.

Biochemistry is a great way to explore science along with your other interests. We encourage you to explore Biochemistry and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for yourself. Join our community of student scholars!

Tyler ChonisTyler Chonis (resized)

Tyler Chonis: Class of 2014
Majors: Biochemistry and Biological Sciences
Minors: Chemistry, Math, Physics, and Psychology
Career Goal: Pediatric Anesthesiologist

Why did you choose Biochemistry?
During my high school Biology class, we had a small section devoted to study of Biochemistry. Learning about the chemical processes that occur within living organisms really fascinated me. I did some research on the subject and realized that not only was the content very interesting, but it coincided with the Pre-Medicine requirements I would be taking as well.

What is your favorite aspect about the major?
Besides learning some really cool things in the classroom, I would have to say my research experience is my favorite part of being a Biochemistry major. The opportunity to work in a lab, researching something that nobody else in the world has is amazing. Through my research, I have been able to form some strong faculty relationships that have been beneficial on many different occasions, such as recommendation letters or scholarship opportunities. I am really grateful for the opportunity to have a job in which I can relate my future career, too, as opposed to working somewhere like a desk job. Making new discoveries and breakthroughs is one of the best feelings in the world. Working in a Biochemistry lab has really shown me how hard work and patience can certainly pay off in the end.

What are your future plans?
My goal in life is to become a pediatric anesthesiologist. Through Biochemistry, the requirements for the major coincided greatly with the ones required for pre-medicine, which was extremely helpful. More importantly, the content I have learned thus far in my courses have definitely reassured me that I really do want to work in the field of medicine. I was fascinated learning about cell metabolism and other biochemical functions, topics in which are very important to the field of medicine. This learning process showed me that this field is something I truly am interested in learning and utilizing in my career. Working hands on with scientific research, utilizing lab equipment and techniques that are very often encountered in the field of medicine has already greatly prepared me for my career. Without being a Biochemistry major, I am not sure if I would still have the drive or passion that I do now to continue pursuing a career in medicine.

What does your research involve?
I am doing research on the plant protein PPDK which plays critical role in carbon metabolism. Specifically, I am researching PPDK from switchgrass, which is a potential biofuel plant for the production of ethanol. I am working to discover a better understanding of the ways that this enzyme functions in order to work towards maximizing the potential use of switchgrass as a lead biofuel source of ethanol, as opposed to corn. One aspect of research that I really enjoy is the fact that I am making a difference in the future of energy production. It is really cool to be able to say that my research is contributing to future biofuel discoveries and other researchers will use my data to aid in their own experiments. My research experience has not only been beneficial to the science community, but has also been very exciting and enjoyable.

What activities on campus are you involved with?
Often, people assume that being a Biochemistry major means you’ll have absolutely no free time and will always be studying. That is not the case! For example, I am involved with ASUN, the Honors Peer Mentor Program, Biochemistry Ambassadors, as well as some other organizations and I still manage to succeed in the major. Since I have the opportunity to utilize my research as a source of income, I’m not forced to find another job, which allows me much more free time. Although I still dedicate much of my time to my studies, my research, and my other campus involvement, I still find myself plenty of time to relax and spend time with my dog. Biochemistry has proven to challenge me academically, yet not to the extent to where I find myself void of any social life. I am really happy with my choice to be a Biochemistry major.

Biochemistry is a great way to prepare for medical school and be involved. We encourage you to explore Biochemistry and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for yourself. Join our community of student scholars!


Lindsay Leikam and Emily Zurbuchen

Lindsay Leikam and EmilLindsay Leikam and Emily Zurbucheny Zurbuchen, seniors in the Biochemistry major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, began their friendship during their very first semester.

“Lindsay and I met in Biochemistry 101 and soon discovered we lived in the same residence hall and were taking the same courses, although different sections in some cases. It was amazing to have an instant friend to study and hang out with.”-Emily

One of their favorite classes at Nebraska was BIOC 431: Biomolecules and Metabolism. Dr. Bailey, the primary instructor, has won national teaching awards and focuses each lecture around a big picture idea that is applicable to health concerns.

“We talked about cancer drugs, preventing heart attacks, vision, metabolism of fatty acids, cholesterol transport in the body, HIV mechanisms and more. The topic is great but Dr. Bailey made it engaging and exciting.” – Lindsay

“I really love having Lindsay as a study partner and friend. Our strengths complement each other and we push each other to achieve more together than we would have studying alone.” - Emily

Both women planned on a career in medicine and recently found out they were admitted to the medical school at the University of Nebraska Medical Center under their early decision program. Lindsay wants to be a Pediatric Endocrinologist and work with diabetic kids. Emily is interested in surgery and rural health with an older patient base.

“My favorite part of every summer is being able to be a counselor at two different camps for children with diabetes. I was a camper myself when I was younger, and being able to go back each summer and serve as a positive role model for young kids has been a wonderful opportunity. It is definitely the highlight of my year to go play with kids for a week and help them successfully manage and live with their diabetes like I was taught to do.”- Lindsay

“Teaching anatomy is an incredibly fulfilling opportunity to teach anatomy yet learn the material even deeper than when I took the class. Beyond the academics, it has strengthened my interpersonal and leadership skills.” - Emily

Emily and Lindsay have worked hard, but had fun over the past few years. They were even able to combine challenging coursework with outside activities and employment. Emily and Lindsay both work at Nebraska Internal Medicine in Lincoln, where Emily works as a phlebotomist and Lindsay works in the medical records department. Both are also completing the UNL Honors Program by working in faculty research labs and plan to write up the results of their inquiry as a senior thesis.

“Since I greatly enjoyed my high school art classes, I pursued an art minor which allowed me to explore and continue my art education. Art is fun and relaxing however it is also a form a discipline, requiring attention to detail and familiarity with the media. The classes also provided a refreshing outlet from the stresses of school and everyday life!” - Emily

“Working in a research lab has been a fantastic way for me to network and learn how science works in a practical setting. I have learned so much working with postdocs, graduate students, and other undergrads who share my passion for science. It’s a great way to get a hands-on application of what I learn in the classroom, and knowing that the results of lab experiments may have an impact on the medical field and my future as a physician is rewarding.” -Lindsay

Biochemistry is a great path to careers in health care and a wonderful place to meet friends who share your passion for science and people. We encourage you to explore Biochemistry and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for yourself. Join our community of student scholars!

Elizabeth JaenschElizabeth Jaensch (compressed) 298x448

Elizabeth Jaensch, a senior from Naperville, Illinois has been able to combine her scientific interests and global aspirations through Biochemistry at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

“I traveled a lot when I was young, and even lived in Germany for two years in elementary school. I’ve always enjoyed traveling, and have been eager ever since my return to America to take advantage of every possible opportunity of doing so.”

She pursued a French minor (along with English, Psychology, Chemistry & Math) and participated in summer research internships at the prestigious Max-Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne, Germany both in 2011 and 2012.

“My two summers in Germany were invaluable to my development as a researcher. I loved every minute of my work in Cologne, and my time there made it clear that I definitely wanted a career in genetic research. I was even able to live in Europe again and reconnect with a lifestyle that I had not experienced in eleven years.”

This experience led to a desire to work abroad for a semester before entering a PhD program. The connections Elizabeth made abroad opened opportunities in France, England and even Singapore.

“Using my spring semester for research will allow me to gain valuable new work experience before beginning graduate school. I’m particularly excited to conduct research with a medical focus since I have worked almost exclusively with plants until now. I’m also eager to experience living somewhere new before I settle into graduate school.”

Study abroad is an opportunity we hope all students choose to take advantage of at Nebraska, including science majors! There are a variety of programs to choose from and Nebraska offers multiple scholarships to make this a reality.

“I was able to go to Germany to work because an advisor here at UNL acquainted me with the DAAD RISE scholarship program, which paid my stipend for my first summer of research. Through hard work, I was able to make connections that secured an offer to return to the Institute the next summer on a stipend.”

Besides her internship in Germany, Elizabeth has been able to take advantage of individualized research in several faculty labs (Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, Behavior Genetics, and a lab focused on Arabidopsis thaliana). The latter has led to an honors thesis. She is also involved with the UNL Swim Club, Phi Sigma Pi National Honor Fraternity, and volunteers at Lighthouse, a high school student support organization.

All of these experiences have combined to earn Elizabeth a prestigious Goldwater Scholarship for pursuit of a career in science. As Elizabeth finishes her Bachelor’s Degree in Biochemistry, she knows that her Nebraska education prepared her for global collaboration and success.

“UNL gave me opportunities to become involved in research and teaching on campus from my first year. By consistent communication with various advisors and professors, I was able to discover a wide range of opportunities, and become deeply involved in science while still allowing myself to pursue other interests. I am extremely excited to take my education to the next level, and am grateful to UNL for preparing me for a successful career early in my education.”

We encourage you to explore Biochemistry and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for yourself. Join our community of student scholars!

Zach Bailey

Zach Bailey Photo (298x448) Zach Bailey, a senior Biochemistry major from Cincinnati, Ohio, came to Nebraska to experience a new place and get involved while preparing for medical school.

"With so many colleges to choose from, I can truly say that I am glad I picked UNL and specifically biochemistry. UNL has provided an endless amount of opportunities; it has been a perfect fit!”

Zach didn’t waste any time getting involved even in the midst of exciting and challenging science courses.

“As a freshman, I joined a couple pre-medical clubs such as NU Meds and AMSA, as well as the Climbing Club. These were great ways to make friends and meet other students with similar interests. I am so glad that I got involved.”

He also joined a faculty lab as a paid student researcher. Over the course of three years his involvement has grown and Zach’s contribution to prostate cancer treatment is recognized and appreciated.

“Working as an undergraduate research assistant has been one of the most rewarding college experiences. Research has solidified much of my science knowledge while providing a new learning perspective. I am also fortunate to have great faculty and graduate student mentorship which has contributed to the overall excitement of scientific discovery.”

As a senior, Zach is now preparing to apply to medical school. His multitude of activities like intramurals, study abroad, volunteer work at local hospitals, Arts and Sciences Student Advisory Board and being a biochemistry teaching assistant all combined to make Nebraska a rewarding college experience.

"Although college has been challenging at times, it has been an incredibly fun and exciting journey. UNL provided the opportunities and encouragement to get involved and become an active member of campus and the community. Their support has and continues to contribute to my overall success as a student. Ultimately, I have fulfilled many of my goals and UNL has prepared me as a competitive medical school applicant and aspiring physician."

We encourage you to explore Biochemistry and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for yourself. Join our community of student scholars!