Our undergraduate and graduate students finish their degrees prepared for careers in the life sciences, health care, education, information technology, biotechnology, and more! We’ve followed up with some of our alumni and share their journeys below.
You can also find our alumni on Handshake and LinkedIn.
B.S. Biochemistry, 2003
Senior Medical Science Liaison for Solid Tumor Oncology Development at AbbVie
Biochemistry is the foundation of what Kevin Sokolowski does every day in his career. Armed with an undergraduate degree in biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, as well as an M.D., he has embarked on a unique alternative career as a Senior Medical Science Liaison for Solid Tumor Oncology Development at AbbVie.
Sokolowski came to UW–Madison in 2000, after a year at UW–La Crosse, and graduated in 2003 before heading to medical school. He says he was drawn to Madison because of the university’s history and strength in biochemistry.
In his role at AbbVie, Sokolowski works to develop and support the company’s solid tumor oncology research and development pipeline. In addition, he works with academic and community physicians to educate them on solid tumor disease states. He says is it an exciting, novel, and challenging alternative career path for those with a medical or pharmacy degree or a Ph.D.
To read more about Kevin’s career after Biochemistry, see the full profile here.
B.S. Biochemistry, 2001
Global Commercialization Marketing Manager, Promega
Jennifer Loeb always knew she wanted to work on the research and development of drugs to treat diseases. Her interests brought her to the University of Wisconsin–Madison to study biochemistry and launched an exciting career that has spanned undergraduate research, lab management, product development in Colorado — and now a job connecting scientists around the world with resources and products at the life sciences company Promega in Madison, Wisc.
The Wisconsin native grew up outside of Milwaukee and says coming to UW–Madison to study biochemistry was an easy choice. Loeb graduated with her undergraduate degree with a major in biochemistry in 2001.
“I loved biology and loved chemistry and had great teachers in school so thought biochemistry was a natural choice,” she says. “I’ve always had a passion and desire to learn more about developing drugs and therapeutics to treat different diseases and it was a great fit. UW–Madison is a top program and was right in my backyard. Something memorable about the Department of Biochemistry was hands down the professors. Now-Emeritus Professor Dave Nelson in particular was great. I loved taking a class from him and hearing him teach.”
To read more about Jennifer’s career after Biochemistry, see the full profile here.
B.S. Biochemistry, 1994
Genetics Professor at UW–Madison
Audrey Gasch just couldn’t stay away from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. The Wisconsin native earned her Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry here in ’94 and a decade later became a faculty member back at UW–Madison in the Department of Genetics.
“My undergraduate years in Biochemistry are really what got me started in research,” she says. “I was advised by now-Emeritus Professor George Reed, who introduced me to the possibility of doing laboratory research as an undergraduate, which was rarer then than it is now. He connected me with now-Emeritus Professor Bill Reznikoff and I joined his lab. The rest is history.”
After her undergraduate degree, she was admitted to Stanford University for a Ph.D. in biochemistry and from there went to the University of California, Berkeley for postdoctoral work. It’s there that she began combining biochemistry with genetic approaches like genomics and ended up in Genetics at UW–Madison.
“I grew up on a pig farm and started off being interested in animal science and veterinary science but at some point that shifted to more fundamental molecular biology research, and I think that was in part because of George and Bill and the influential faculty in Biochemistry,” Gasch says. “I would say my experience doing research in the department in the early ‘90s really set the bar for what doing collaborative research in a college department could be like. It’s a big part of what brought me back to UW–Madison.”
To read more about Audrey’s life after Biochemistry, see the full profile here.
B.S. Biochemistry, 2005
Co-founder and Chief Operating Office at InSource Diagnostics
Only a little more than a decade out of his biochemistry undergraduate degree, Michael Rummel is an owner in and the chief operating officer of an independent laboratory based in Southern California named InSource Diagnostics.
The 2005 Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry graduate is on a mission to create a better patient experience and increase accessibility to preventative laboratory testing. His laboratory is pursuing the development of diagnostics assays that utilize a fraction of the blood needed when compared to historic assays. However, he is careful to point out that this pursuit needs to be executed in a disciplined, scientifically defensibly manner.
“I get to directly influence the technologies and ways of providing diagnostic testing, which is a great marriage of chemistry and medicine,” Rummel explains. “I want to have an impact on patient accessibility and convenience to laboratory testing. It is invaluable for early detection of many diseases and conditions. Furthermore, a patient’s ability to track biomarkers such as cholesterol, HbA1c, and others can engage a patient to actively manage their health.”
To read more about Michael’s life after Biochemistry, see the full profile here.
B.S. Biochemistry, 2008
NIR (near infrared) manager at Rock River Laboratory
An upbringing on a Wisconsin dairy farm, combined with an interest in biochemistry, led 2008 biochemistry undergraduate alum Jacob Karlen to a career overseeing technology used to chemically analyze agricultural forage.
During the first semester of his freshman year in the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Department of Biochemistry, Karlen got involved in research at the Dairy Forage Research Center on campus. Through his biochemistry undergraduate classes and work in research, he developed a keen interest in the instrumentation used to gather data in the laboratory. Today he is the NIR (near infrared) manager at Rock River Laboratory in Watertown, Wis.
“The lab is a network of currently nine locations around the world which run forage analysis,” he explains. “In my position I maintain the network of instruments that are deployed for analysis at our headquarters and our satellite locations.”
The clients of the Rock River Laboratory largely consist of agricultural nutritionists and consultants in the dairy industry. The laboratory is able to analyze the dairy farmer’s forage for nutritional value and then the consultant is able to use that information to create a balanced feed ration for the farmer’s cattle.
Karlen hails from Monticello, Wis. He says what originally drew him to biochemistry was its intersection of biology and chemistry and an interest in how enzymes work. As he moved through the biochemistry undergraduate curriculum, his interest in instrumentation grew.
A typical day in his current position consists of monitoring the performance of the instruments across the network and updating calibration equations or exploring new ones. He fixes the technology if something breaks and ensures it’s all running smoothly.
To read more about Jacob’s life after Biochemistry, see the full profile here.
Steven P. Kaul
B.S. Natural Sciences: Biochemistry, 2007
Associate Manufacturing Chemist, Sigma-Aldrich
Sigma-Aldrich, located in St. Louis, MO, is a world-class chemical manufacturing company operating in 35 countries with over 6,800 employees. Facilities are located around the globe and include Madison, Milwaukee, and Sheboygan Falls of Wisconsin. Sigma-Aldrich prides itself on being a role model and leading life science and high technology company. Employees take great pride in the products they produce, from bench top to industrial scales, within a high quality environment with outstanding Quality Assurance Systems in place. The 180,000 products offered by Sigma-Aldrich are used in a wide variety of domains from scientific research, to biotechnology, to key components in pharmaceutical manufacturing. Life science companies, university and government institutions, hospitals, and industries regularly utilize Sigma-Aldrich’s products.
I proudly work in one of Sigma-Aldrich’s production facilities in St. Louis. My primary responsibility as a production chemist is to manufacture proteins and enzymes from natural sources for sale to customers worldwide. A few of the many techniques utilized in such manufacturing procedures include: fermentation, extraction, low- and high-pressure column chromatography, centrifugation, diafiltration, and numerous analytical procedures. While the scale is drastically different, most of what I learned at the UW-Madison is integral on the job. Safety and quality are also foremost concerns that are unique to the industry setting. Some of the more notable products my group directly produces are Proteinase K, Pepstatin A, Collagenase, and Superoxide Dismutase from microbial sources.
The UW-Madison provided me with an outstanding educational background to join and quickly succeed at Sigma-Aldrich. Each day I go to work I find myself utilizing the skills and knowledge learned in the classroom. Perhaps the greatest “asset” I obtained was through my internship with Sigma-Aldrich during my junior year. The internship provided me with invaluable hands on experience in an industry setting that allowed me to easily integrate from an academic setting into a corporate culture upon graduation. Both Sigma-Aldrich and I benefited from that internship. The project yielded outstanding benefits for the company, Sigma-Aldrich was able to see how I worked as an effective employee within its culture, and I was ultimately offered a full-time position upon graduation, which I eagerly accepted!
Living and working in St. Louis is outstanding. The city has much to offer, and not just Anheuser-Busch products. There are numerous parks spread out among the city (Forest Park is tremendous); countless sporting clubs to participate in; professional football, baseball, and hockey teams to cheer on; and a one-of-a-kind culture. The Gateway to the West is a great place to live, work, and grow.
Missing the Badgers’ games is hard, but I have found comfort with the St. Louis chapter of the Wisconsin Alumni Association. Whether meeting to watch the game on the big screen, competing in a Big10 alumni blood drive challenge, or squaring off against Marquette alumni on the Kickball diamond, St. Louis is just as much fun, with a hint of Madison in the mix!
To check out potential careers at Sigma-Aldrich, visit the Career Section of the Sigma Aldrich Website.
B.S. Biochemistry, 2007
Ph.D. Biochemistry, 2012
I came from South Korea to attend a high school in Minnesota for two years. After going through many cultural adjustments and language barriers, I was getting tired of adjusting to new settings and decided to stay in Minnesota for college. However, my dad and high school teachers strongly recommended that I apply to UW-Madison. I was “forced” to visit the school, and during the visit, I experienced the friendly atmosphere of the campus and learned how strong its academics are. So if you are unsure about what you want to pursue in college or want to combine different fields, UW-Madison is the ideal place for you.
Once I chose to attend UW-Madison, it was time to decide which major to declare. From the very beginning, I wanted to major in biochemistry because I enjoyed both biology and chemistry and I knew that the Biochemistry Department here is very prestigious. Some people may say that your major department’s reputation is only important for graduate school, but it is also important for undergraduate studies. I interacted with internationally renowned professors, and there are many research opportunities for undergraduates.
I started undergraduate research in the summer after the first year of college. I joined a lab in the Chemistry Department since I came to know the professor from an introductory chemistry course. I studied protein folding based on a model protein from E. coli using biophysical methods. It was an invaluable experience to design and conduct my experiments, to discuss the progress with graduate students and professors, and to share my research with others through poster sessions and seminars. Close to graduation, I published a paper as a result of my research. Without a doubt, I believe that my success in undergraduate research was made possible because of the excellent faculty and supportive environment at UW-Madison. In addition to many research opportunities on campus, the school strongly supports undergraduate research in all aspects of academia – there are several campus-wide undergraduate research fellowships and poster sessions.
I joined UBSO (Undergraduate Biochemistry Student Organization) in my freshmen year. Because of its relatively small size, it was easy to get involved and take a leadership role in the organization. I started as the treasurer, then became the vice president, and eventually, the president. Although it was sometimes challenging to balance class work and student club involvement, I learned a lot about leadership and group dynamics and also made many new friends through the experience.
Upon graduation, I applied, and was accepted into the Ph. D. program in biochemistry here at UW-Madison, and have started a fascinating thesis project about bacterial cell shape and physiology in the Weibel Lab.
Outside of the lab, I enjoy canoeing in Lake Mendota with Hoofers, biking with friends to the Olbrich Garden, and going to many free concerts on and near campus. Even though I have been living in Madison for about five years now, it is still possible to find things that I’ve never done before. It is a huge advantage that both the big campus and the friendly city have a lot of cultural and outdoor activities.
Michael W. Cullen
B.S., Biochemistry, 2002
M.D., University of Wisconsin School of Medicine & Public Health, 2006
Resident in internal medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota
As one of its founding members and a past President (’01-’02), it is inspiring to see UBSO continuing to persevere and grow. I still remember the evening in April, 2000 when a handful of undergraduates, including myself, met with Dr. David Nelson in the 4th-floor conference room of the new biochemistry building. With some exciting ideas and an incredible amount of institutional support, we formally organized UBSO in September, 2000. Now entering its 8th year, UBSO continues to offer valuable counseling, mentoring, and networking services to undergraduate biochemistry students.
Originally from Janesville, Wisconsin, I came to UW Madison in the fall of 1998 knowing I sought a pre-med track but unclear about my specific major. After exploring several options my freshman year, I settled on biochemistry. A biochemistry degree gave me a broad knowledge base of fundamental disciplines while fostering ample opportunities for individualized mentored research. I worked in the lab of Dr. James Ntambi for 2 years investigating the role of the p53 tumor suppressor gene at regulating steryl-CoA desaturase (SCD) gene synthesis. I received the Hilldale Undergraduate Scholarship and completed a Senior Honors Thesis under Dr. Ntambi’s direction.
After graduating with a B.S. in 2002, I stayed in Madison for medical school. An undergraduate biochemistry degree provided me with a firm foundation of scientific reasoning and biomedical principles necessary for success in the pre-clinical course work of medical school’s first two years. While completing the various clinical rotations during my 3rd year of medical school, I decided to pursue specialty training in internal medicine with eventual sub-specialization in cardiology. I graduated from UW Medical School in 2006 and entered Mayo Clinic’s internal medicine residency program in Rochester, Minnesota. I am now a second year resident with intentions of entering a cardiology fellowship at the completion of my residency.
Throughout my training, I have found the leadership, research, and mentoring skills fostered as a member of UBSO instrumental to my career development. I encourage current UW-Madison undergraduates to take full advantage of the service and networking opportunities UBSO offers. I wish UBSO the best of luck moving forward. And finally, Go Badgers!!