The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

UI alum heads for academic heights

UI graduate Nicholas McCarty is set to pursue a master’s degree at Imperial College in Kensington, London. With a Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry, McCarty hopes to continue his studies in synthetic biology.

By Madeleine Neal

[email protected]

One of the world’s top-ranked universities, one University of Iowa graduate, and one goal in mind: a master’s degree from Imperial College in Kensington, London.

Nicholas McCarty, a UI alum who graduated in May, will pursue a master’s degree in synthetic biology in London, where he will study metabolism research in order to produce pharmaceutical drugs.

He said his career goals are ever-changing, but he hopes to obtain a Ph.D. in the United States.

“Ultimately, I plan on returning to the U.S., but right now, I’m leaning toward doing a Ph.D. in bioengineering when I come back,” McCarty said. “And of course, the Fulbright program and having this master’s experience, and this new and emerging discipline, I think will obviously help me in a Ph.D. program.”

In addition to studying synthetic biology at Imperial College, which Times Higher Education ranked as the eighth best university in the world, McCarty said he is excited to start building connections abroad.

“I think, in general, my life will change because I’ll have new connections abroad,” he said. “I think in most fields, it’s good to learn how different people approach the same problems that you’re working on.” 

In addition to his studies, McCarty said he hopes to work with Imperial College’s faculty to fulfill his creative goals.

“I run a podcast currently, so that’s something that I’ll probably keep doing in the UK — I’ll try to work with some of the faculty there to do more podcasts and things like that,” he said. “I’m also interested in starting a science-writing magazine, so a magazine for science writing and not just popular science writing, but also in-depth general analysis of different scientific topics in a way that most conventional media does not.”

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Karen Wachsmuth, the associate director of international fellowships and adviser for the UI Fulbright Program, said McCarty stood out in every possible way as an ambassador for the U.S.

“I cannot overemphasize how competitive [getting the Fulbright award to the UK] is,” Wachsmuth said. “[McCarty] being accepted to this [Imperial College] is a milestone for the UI.”

Wachsmuth and Christopher Squier, the director of the global-health-studies program, said McCarty makes his area of focus accessible to the public.

McCarty said Squier offered him crucial feedback during the application process.

“[It] makes it a whole lot easier when you can present complex concepts in an easy to understand way,” Squier said. “He is extremely good at that.”

But to receive the Fulbright award, he said, applicants need more than academic achievements.

“[Recipients are] particularly people that’ve done interesting things, that can present themselves very well because you have to write not only just an application but a personal statement,” he said. “They’ve got to be extremely bright students; they’ve got to be doing very well in their areas [of study].”

Despite the high pressure of applying for such a prestigious award to study at such a prestigious school, Squier said, McCarty is a natural.

“He is extremely bright — therefore, a top student in his area,” he said. “He’s also very articulate, and he’s able to talk about his subject extremely well.”

Squier said McCarty’s ability to articulately speak about his research was the key to his success amid such fierce competition. 

“Imperial College is the No. 8 university in the world — I mean, that is huge, so to get an award to go there, to have somebody pay for you to go and do your master’s degree there, is a tremendous accomplishment,” Squier said.

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