Posted 3:07 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023
Doctoral student shares the UWL experiences that created a competitive edge for grad school, award-winning research at the Medical College of Wisconsin
Gage Stuttgen discovered his passion for research in a UW-La Crosse science lab. Today, he’s an award-winning doctoral student researcher at the Medical College of Wisconsin with plans to become a biochemical research scientist or professor in the Midwest.
“I loved being in the lab and trying to answer difficult scientific questions,” says the May 2019 graduate.
By the end of his time at UWL, Stuttgen had spent 3 ½ years in Todd Weaver’s biochemistry lab. Outside of lab, he presented research at multiple conferences including two national conferences; participated in grant writing; wrote a manuscript, and trained other students as a research mentor, math tutor and biology teaching assistant.
"These experiences assured me that a career in basic science research is what I wanted to pursue and helped make me a competitive graduate student applicant,” he says.
Today, Stuttgen is keeping his research stride as a fourth-year graduate student researching Atherosclerosis and Cardiovascular Disease. This year he has received numerous awards and honors, including being selected one of three winners of the school’s inaugural Friends of MCW Excellence in Research Award given to students who have passed the doctoral qualifying examination and have exhibited exemplary scholastic and research excellence as assessed by the awards subcommittee of the Graduate Studies Council.
While at UWL Stuttgen said faculty mentors were training him and other biochemistry students to be professionals in their field, learning both the technical and the soft skills needed in science.
"The Biochemistry program at La Crosse does a phenomenal job preparing students for graduate school. When I entered graduate school, my basic science knowledge was strong from the intense curriculum,” says Stuttgen. “Additionally, the advanced biochemistry lab is a hypothesis-driven research experience that helped me develop my soft skills like how to write, speak, work as a team, analyze data, and think critically.”
Stuttgen’s message to students interested in pursuing graduate school is to take advantage of the unique opportunities offered at UWL like conducting undergraduate research. At UWL, Stuttgen was supported by grants and scholarships totaling $33,850 over his four years. These awards such as Undergraduate Research Creativity Grants and the Hardy W. Chan and Sons Summer Undergraduate Fellowship made his research experience possible.
“One of the unique things about La Crosse is how much they invest in undergraduate research by giving out grants and fellowships and sending students to conferences,” he says. “Without these things, I might not have been able to conduct undergraduate research and would not have had the experience to make me a competitive graduate school applicant. La Crosse is a special place, and I am so grateful and proud to be an Eagle.”
Professors Todd Weaver and Dan Grilley watched Stuttgen present his research as a second-year graduate student at the ASBMB conference in Philadelphia this past spring. Weaver said his presentation skills have developed since they all traveled to the ASBMB international meeting when Stuttgen was an undergraduate years ago.
“We tell our research students to develop a good story from their data and take the audience on a journey,” says Weaver. “I can honestly say it was one of the most well-designed and delivered presentations I have witnessed from a second-year graduate student. He has mastered the art of storytelling in science!”
New science building will increase capacity to educate Wisconsin’s brightest
UWL’s Prairie Springs Science Center Completion/Cowley Hall Demolition project will provide 30 innovative science learning spaces for UWL faculty to mold in-demand Wisconsin STEM workers — like Stuttgen. Stuttgen plans to stay in the Midwest after graduate school. Many UWL grads stay in the state. Just under 87% of College of Science and Health 2010 and 2015 graduates reported living in Wisconsin at least one year after graduation. Read more on the science building project.