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Undergraduate Research Sets the Course for the Future

Nick Weires, recipient of the John George Award, in the lab.

Nick Weires didn’t come to college with a career in science in mind, but after graduating, he looks back at four years of educational opportunities that changed the trajectory of his life. Growing up in Eagle, Idaho, he thought about trying to make a career of his guitar skills. Once he arrived at the University of Idaho, however, engineering seemed a more practical pursuit, and Nick spent his freshman year living on the engineering floor of the dorm as a chemical engineering major. Through a circuitous route that included a brief stay as an economics major, Nick found his calling in the Department of Chemistry, working as an undergraduate researcher in the lab of Professor Jakob Magolan.

Nick was selected in 2010 to receive one of the College of Science’s Brian and Gayle Hill Undergraduate Research Fellowships, and the experience of working on synthetic organic chemistry in Magolan’s lab changed everything.

"Undergraduate research has been the single greatest thing about my experience at the University of Idaho,” he says. “It’s allowed me to develop independent research skills that I’ll continue to use in the future, and I've had a great time throughout the whole process.”

Nick doesn’t hesitate to describe the impact and opportunities like the Hill Fellowship have had on his education.

“It’s the best decision I made as an undergraduate because it helped me to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life," he said.

In fact, Nick’s goal is to complete his doctorate in chemistry (he’ll enter UCLA’s graduate program this fall) and follow in his advisor’s footsteps of running a research lab at a university. “I’m really excited to graduate,” he says, “but it’s also a little terrifying. Graduate school will be extreme I’m sure!”

Nick was recognized at commencement with the John B. George Award as the outstanding graduating senior in the College of Science.

“It’s fantastic – and unexpected,” he said when he was notified about the award. It may have been unexpected by Nick, but it’s hardly a surprise to any of the faculty who’ve worked with him over the past four years!

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