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Kalamazoo College

Erika Waalkes


Hometown: Grand Rapids, MI
Major: Biology
Study Abroad: Perth, Australia
Best Adjective to Describe You: Conscientious

In 20 words or less, what is the best thing about being part of this department?
The biology department is like a big family; students and professors are so friendly and passionate about their field.

What is your advice to first years and sophomores about getting connected to this department?
Use older students as resources; they have been through it all and can offer advice based on their mistakes and achievements. In addition, stay connected to your professors; their guidance when it comes to grad school, med school, and future career plans is so incredibly valuable.

What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned at K?
Learning how to learn. As silly as it may sound that was the topic of the first book I read in my first-year seminar, and all of the concepts have really stuck with me throughout my time at K. Learning how you process information and need to approach studying makes any subject doable with the right resources.

What has been your favorite class at K?  Why?
Cell and Molecular Biology! I loved learning how the cell, which is such a small-scale model, has such important implications throughout all organisms in life. Each process, signal, and organelle in the cell controls how all of our bodies function every day, which is so fascinating to me.

How have you taken advantage of the open curriculum or experienced breadth in your education?
Yes, but not to the extent I should have. I am going to take more classes out of my major senior year now that I have more time in my schedule, however I wished I had taken more classes outside of science in freshman and sophomore year when I look back on it.

What experiential education opportunities have you participated in?
Intern at Spectrum Health Helen Devos Children’s Hospital (Congenital Heart Research Center)
Intern at Harry Perkins Medical Research Center
Sisters in Science
TA for EvGen Labs
Health Professions Society
Shadowing doctors in various West Michigan Hospitals

What is your SIP?
Researching Missense Mutations in Myosin Motor Domain and their effect on Muscle Function and Viability in C. elegans at Western Michigan University Department of Biological Sciences

What are your career aspirations/next steps after K?
To attend Medical School and become a physician, I currently am thinking either Cardiology or Emergency Room Medicine.

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