Tonya (Wright) Zeczycki, chemistry and biology ’01, Ph.D. candidate at Marquette University in Milwaukee

I chose WLC because I was immediately struck by my sense of belonging after just one visit. I knew that this was the place where I would be able to get the individual attention and exceptional education I needed to be successful in my career.

I didn’t initially start out as a chemistry major. In fact, I was a biology major who was “anti-chemistry.”  But after I took organic chemistry in the fall of my sophomore year, I realized I was being challenged to think about the world in a new way.  Studying the macroscopic world on a microscopic level intrigued me. As I took more chemistry classes, I realized that by understanding the chemistry behind biological processes, I would be a better biologist. I decided to pursue chemistry and have never regretted my decision.

Right now, I am finishing my Ph.D. in inorganic chemistry at Marquette University in Milwaukee.  I have received a post-doctoral position with a well-known mechanistic enzymologist, Dr. W. Cleland, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  The work I have done at Marquette, under the direction of Dr. Chae Yi, has focused on the kinetic and mechanistic investigation of Ruthenium-based catalysts for various small-molecule transformations.  In Madison, I will be working on mechanistic enzymology, namely the carboxy-biotin pathway focusing on the pyruvate decarboxylase enzyme.

There are many ways the WLC chemistry program has helped prepare me for my career.  First and foremost, I received a solid foundation in chemistry both in concepts and applications.  One of the unique things about the chemistry program is that professors force you to go beyond the number-crunching and formula writing and have you critically analyze problems and research, and then apply fundamental concepts to the problem. 

I was also exposed to academic research for the first time.  Working with the chemistry professors and doing independent research projects prepared me for academic research. This was one of the main reasons that I decided to continue on to graduate school in chemistry. 

I have found that by being in the chemistry program at WLC, I was better prepared for graduate school than other incoming first-year students.  I had been exposed to material, concepts and techniques in my upper-level courses at WLC that many of my peers had never heard of until taking graduate level courses. The faculty at WLC cares about your success as a chemist.  This, coupled with their ability to teach difficult concepts and to push you beyond what you expected from yourself, makes the program one of the best that I have seen.  The faculty forces you to think, apply and learn.  The challenging curriculum and faculty has made me a better chemist.