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How to prepare for grad school: Get a solid foundation

Matthew Aronoff graduated with a degree in Biochemistry after transferring to Fort Lewis College.

I'll be starting in the Fall in a Ph.D. program in Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin. The confidence that resulted from my experience at Fort Lewis played a large part in my going on to graduate school. I didn’t have a lot of confidence after my first bachelor’s degree at another college. My grades weren’t great. So, being in a place where I could really excel, where I could not only do well and get good grades, but where I really felt I was learning a lot and getting to know the material, has benefited me.

Things that helped me at Fort Lewis were the class sizes, classmates, and the faculty. The faculty is top notch, and being able to interact with quality professors one-on-one was really valuable. I feel like I learned a tremendous amount from that. One of the best things about Fort Lewis is the small class sizes. You’re free to ask questions, and you’re able to talk to professors in their office hours. And the other students are serious about what they are learning, but at the same time everyone is willing to help everyone else. There’s a great sense of community here.

Before I came here, I knew that Fort Lewis had a good reputation in chemistry and in the sciences in general. But being able to work on research projects here that were successful inspired a lot of confidence, too, and without that I would not have been as prepared for grad school. I gained a lot of perspective for what I’m getting into. Without a doubt, I have a leg up on just about anyone else who will start with me in the Fall by just being more comfortable in the lab.

I’ve done biochemistry research looking at proteins and how their interactions affect genetic transcription. The other research I’ve done involved synthetic organic chemistry. I worked on molecules made by soil bacteria and it turns out it’s a really effective antibacterial. I got to work one-on-one with Dr. Kenny Miller, so that was great experience. After that research, I certainly gained a greater level of respect for the type of work I’ll do in grad school. Combined with the liberal arts background from Fort Lewis, I'm going into graduate school really well rounded.

When I looked at graduate programs, I tried to find places that in one way or another embodied the mentality of Fort Lewis. My ultimate goal is to be a professor. Ten years from now, it would be my dream to come back to Fort Lewis and teach here.

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