Philip Flejserovich, a native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, will graduate with a degree in microbiology. In this Q&A, Flejsierowicz talks about his upbringing, experiences as a university researcher and teaching assistant, and his career plans.
Q: Where did you grow up?
a: I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where I was raised by my Polish mom and dad. At home, I grew up speaking Polish with my family while learning English at school. From an early age, I had the opportunity to spend the summer in Pozna, Poland where I spent time with my family and friends. My Polish American upbringing has given me a unique perspective on the world, and made me appreciate all the wonderful opportunities in the United States. As a first-generation American, I am proud of my Polish heritage and American roots, and I hope to share this cultural enthusiasm with others.
Q: How did you decide on your major?
a: From the beginning of college, I knew I wanted to pursue STEM-based academic research. This naturally led me to explore the disciplines of biology, chemistry, physics, and genetics. However, I was mostly drawn to biology because I knew I wanted to pursue medicine after graduation, so I wanted to learn how to answer biological questions. At the time I announced my major, I knew nothing of microbiology. In fact, I had never heard of this field before. However, after my academic advisor told me about the infamous reputation of microbiology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I knew I had to give it a try. I also believed that if there was a building as beautiful as the Microbial Science Building committed to one discipline, the major was worth studying. I was not wrong!
Q: What is the most important university experience you have had?
a: It is undeniable that my research and teaching job has been the most important university experience. In my second year, I joined my first research lab where I could finally apply my coursework knowledge in a scientific setting. While there was a steep learning curve at first, my principal investigator and teacher motivated me to become a better student and thinker. I was excited about learning new things in class, so that I could apply these concepts directly to my lab setting (and vice versa). After one year in the lab, I became a Teaching Assistant for Biochemistry 501 where I was able to advance my scientific understanding and pursue my passion for teaching. In fact, I loved teaching so much that in my last semester I became a Teaching Assistant for Microbiology 304 and Microbiology 527. As a Teaching Assistant, I had the pleasure of working with outstanding professors and outstanding students. I have had the pleasure of sharing my enthusiasm for science with my professors, colleagues, and students at UW-Madison.
Q: When you think of your time here as a student, what are you most proud of?
a: I am proud of my personal growth as a student and as a person. When I started college, I was more cautious about my involvement on campus. Since then, I’ve tried to push myself beyond my comfort zone. I realized that in order to grow as a person, I had to feel comfortable with the discomfort. This realization led me to try new things every year. This fall, I became a co-author on my first primary research article, which was a very proud moment for me and the cherry on top before graduation.
Q: What are your future academic/professional plans?
a: My goal has always been to become a doctor. My short-term academic goal is to be accepted into medical school, and my long-term professional goal is to become a practicing physician. Ideally, I hope to incorporate research and teaching into my practice one day. There are many areas of medicine that excite me, but I have a particular interest in oncology.
Q: Do you have any tips you’d like to share with CALS students?
a: My advice to CALS students is to get to know your professors in the best possible way. Make friends with them, ask them about their work, go to office hours, and be a curious student. There is no way professors will remember you in a big lecture, so you should start the conversation with them. You’ll find that they love helping students learn, and are very passionate about their work. Most of us only go to college once, so take the opportunity to talk to experts in their fields. They will help you navigate the stressful college experience and make the college experience more special at such a large school.