As another semester comes to a close at UW-Madison, senior chemistry major Natalie Lenz, from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, is staring down her final semester. She knows these last few months will be bittersweet, but is excited to see what the future holds.
Lenz applied to only one college as a high school student: UW-Madison. Having heard about her older siblings’ experiences at the university, she knew this was the place she wanted to be.
Although her passion for the science is crystal clear now, Lenz did not come to Madison intending to major in chemistry. She had initially intended to study pharmacology and toxicology. Everything changed on her last day of Chemistry 345. She says Professor Tehshik Yoon wanted to show his students that organic chemistry is required for a reason. He presented questions currently facing organic chemists as well as some of the cutting edge-research happening in the field. This was her turning point.
“I have to do this,” she thought. “I have to pursue chemistry. Maybe I’ll come back to pharmacology, but for now I’m going to stay broad and look at chemistry.”
Lenz soon joined the Yoon Group as an undergraduate researcher. Her project dealt with catalysis and using photochemistry to make products with specific chiralities and stereochemistry. Her third project with the group was her senior honors thesis.
Lenz has been awarded the Henry and Eleanor Firminhac Scholarship twice during her time at UW-Madison.
“[The scholarship] means everything to me to,” she says. “It was an affirmation that I had to pursue chemistry.”
Upon graduating in the spring, Lenz plans to work toward a doctorate in chemistry. She is interested in combining her knowledge of organic chemistry with renewable energy research. She became interested in this topic following a project where she studied a biodigester that turns organic waste into biogas in a class.
“I’m so proud to have attended UW-Madison, to have found the chemistry department, and to be able to take that with me somewhere else,” Lenz says. “I wish I could stay here, but it’s time for me to go to a different school and broaden my horizons. I have such a great foundation from coming here.”