Our Stories

Class of 2012 takes promising first steps after graduating from Willamette

Tyler Starr

  • Hometown: Hopkins, Minn.
  • Major: Biology and biochemistry
  • After graduation: Pursuing a PhD in the molecular biosciences at the University of Chicago
  • Senior thesis: "Employing protein complementation of a beta-lactamase biosensor to explore the evolution of dimerization in the nuclear receptors"
  • Activities and Honors: Science Collaborative Research Program, National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates internship at the University of Oregon, Sigma Chi Fraternity, semester abroad in Ecuador, Opening Days Leader, Willamette Academy volunteer, Chemawa Indian School tutor, Take a Break participant, Biology Department teaching assistant and tutor, Goldwater Scholarship recipient, NSF Graduate Research Fellowship recipient, Phi Beta Kappa

What are you doing after graduation, and what’s your overall career goal?

Next fall, I will attend the University of Chicago to pursue a PhD in the molecular biosciences. My research interests span across the disciplines of biochemistry and evolutionary biology; as such, I intend to perform research on the evolution of proteins, the molecular machines that carry out a wide variety of tasks within the context of the cell.

Overall, I would like to become a professor at a small institution such as Willamette, where I can continue to engage in research while simultaneously teaching and interacting with students on a close, personal level.

What do you value the most about your Willamette experience?

First, I am highly appreciative of the opportunity to begin scientific research early on in my college career. Participating in a Science Collaborative Research Program with Professor Chris Smith the summer after my freshman year was a fantastic educational experience. This early exposure to science allowed me to pursue other opportunities later on, such as a National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates internship in Professor Joe Thornton’s lab at the University of Oregon. Overall, my strong scientific education allowed me to be competitive for national scholarships and fellowships.

Furthermore, I value the fact that at Willamette, I was able to immerse myself in my scientific education, yet still retain the opportunity to engage in other communities. The chance to study abroad for a semester, volunteer with various organizations, and participate in student groups truly contributed to my personal development, without hindering my ability to succeed in my science classes.

What will you miss about Willamette?

More than anything else, I am going to miss the friendliness that permeates every interaction within the Willamette community. From professors’ office hours, to impromptu Bistro gatherings, to late night study parties, members of the Willamette community are some of the most welcoming people I have ever met. For me, this friendliness is both contagious and motivating.