Willamette University

Wes Wenzel, Multitasker

By Robert McKinney

On the football field, Wes Wenzel ’13 is a powerful inside linebacker who led Willamette with 65 total tackles during the 2011 season and added 51 in 2012 — despite missing two games due to injury. In the classroom, he’s a pre-medicine student with a challenging class load. He’s making plans for graduate school, and eventually, work as a physician’s assistant.

For most students, these things would be enough.

But Wenzel is also a leader of the football team’s Bible study, which is a branch of the campus ministry supported by Campus Ambassadors. On top of that, he serves as a tutor for those who need help in chemistry and statistics, and he’s also found time to volunteer at Salem Hospital, where he worked in the cardiology and oncology departments.

Then there’s his summer research in the behavioral neuroscience lab at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) in Portland. It involved a behavioral test called delayed discounting, where groups of subjects (such as lab rats) are given two different rewards for completing a task. One is delivered immediately, but is small; the other reward is larger, but is delivered after a delay. Delayed discounting is important because subjects’ decision-making under these conditions might apply to treating addiction, gambling, alcoholism and ADD/ADHD. It’s a contemporary approach in addressing longtime needs.

Wenzel’s thesis topic at Willamette is at least as widely applicable: ruthenium-based anti-cancer medications. Scientists know that these medications beat back some cancers, but not why they do it — researchers like Wenzel will be the ones to fill in the gaps.

(For more Willamette research on ruthenium-based cancer drugs, see “Blurring an Old Line: Teaching and Research in the Sciences,” Spring 2011.)

Predictably, Wenzel has assessed what his various Willamette experiences mean as a whole. “Being a scholar-athlete at Willamette has pushed me,” he says. “That competitive drive that you get on the field just correlates directly to the classroom.”

And just about everywhere else, in his case.

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“That competitive drive that you get on the field just correlates directly to the classroom.”

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