Meet Natalia Betancourt Rodriguez

In a weekly series, the College of Agricultural & Life Sciences (CALS) is speaking with CALS students to learn more about them and their time at UW–Madison. Meet Natalia Betancourt Rodriguez, a senior undergraduate student majoring in biochemistry and global health, below.

Photo by Michael P. King.

How are you involved on campus? 

I am part of the King Morgridge Scholars Program, and I also participate in biological research in the Department of Pathobiological Sciences.

Why have you chosen your field of study? 

I have had a natural fascination for science from a very young age. During my high school years, I was very passionate about my biology and chemistry classes, so I thought, why not study the combination of these two fields? Biochemistry then became my preferred major of choice, and I could not be happier with my decision. This major has not only allowed me to understand the processes behind human health, but it has taught me valuable techniques to study diseases within the laboratory.

As I finished my first year of college, I heard about the global health major, and I quickly decided to declare it as my second major. Different from biochemistry, global health has made me aware of the environmental, cultural and social determinants of health. I feel like this major has been the perfect complement to my scientific career because it has shaped me into a more humane and mindful researcher.

What do you like about being at UW–Madison and in CALS? 

Growing up, I had never imagined studying in the United States, much less in a world-renowned institution such as UW–Madison. Every day, I feel extremely thankful for the opportunity to be at this university and to study my dream majors. As a CALS student, I am constantly reminded that I study at one of the most recognized biochemistry institutions in the world – a place where great discoveries, such as that of vitamin D, took place!

What accomplishments or achievements would you like to share with the CALS community? 

Having the opportunity to intern at the One Health Genomic Laboratory in Medellín, Colombia has been one of the most valuable achievements of my undergraduate career. Since I left Colombia to study at UW–Madison, I always had the goal of going back to evaluate the research panorama of my country. After being awarded the Promega International Scientific Research Scholarship, my dream came true, and I was able to make great connections with local researchers while studying neglected tropical diseases in the Colombian Amazon. Although I was not aware of it at the time, creating that bridge between Colombia and Wisconsin would define my professional interests going forward.

What do you want to do once you graduate?

My experience at the One Health Genomic Laboratory not only taught me valuable research techniques, but it motivated me to pursue graduate studies. I am currently in the process of applying to the Comparative Biomedical Sciences PhD program offered by UW–Madison, where I hope to continue studying the neglected tropical disease of Mansonellosis in the Colombian Amazon.

Is there anything else you want to tell us?

My place at UW–Madison and the accomplishments I have made here would not have been possible without the existence of the King Morgridge Scholarship Program! I am forever grateful to the King and Morgridge families for their support.

Note to the reader: Betancourt Rodriguez was also featured in the summer 2022 issue of Grow magazine, a CALS publication.