Meet Alison ('15)

Ph.D. student Alison Wendlandt

Alison Wendlandt (Ph.D. '15)

Hometown: Golden, Colorado

Breakfast with scientists who changed the world. Lunch with leading researchers. And, of course, evening drinks with colleagues from other continents.

That was what chemistry graduate student Alison Wendlandt’s schedule looked like while she attended the 63rd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting this summer.

The annual meeting provides a forum for top graduate and undergraduate students from around the world to interact with Nobel Laureates in their selected field. This year’s meeting focused on chemistry.

“It was really inspiring,” Wendlandt said. “What I think was insanely apparent was the importance of fundamental science.”

Back at UW-Madison, Wendlandt is working toward a Ph.D. in organic chemistry in Professor Shannon Stahl’s lab. Specifically, Wendlandt’s work focuses on developing a class of catalysts that can mediate amine oxidation reactions. Researchers study these catalysts in part to find materials that could be substituted in place of expensive rare-earth metals that are currently used to carry out efficient organic reactions.

In addition to being selected to attend the Lindau meeting, Wendlandt has received the Goering Organic Chemistry Award for 2013-14. The award was established through a bequest from Margaret Goering in honor of her late husband, former Professor Harlan Goering.

Wendlandt initially pursued graduate studies in chemical biology, focusing on how certain molecules behave with respect to cells and human health. However, as a master’s student, she found herself more interested in broader questions of how her reactions worked and what she could do to improve them. Consequently, after working in an organic synthesis lab, Wendlandt decided to pursue a doctorate at UW-Madison.

As a doctoral student, it’s hard for Wendlandt to detail what a typical day—even one that doesn’t involve meeting Nobel Laureates—looks like. The demands of her work depend on the day, and Wendlandt said this variety is part of what appeals to her about lab science.

After she completes her Ph.D., Wendlandt hopes to go on to a postdoctoral fellowship.

“I really like what I’m doing now, and I want to keep doing what I’m doing,” she said.