Stories From UW-Madison Honors Students

Portrait of Wisconsin Honors Student Isa Butz

Isa Butz

Majors: Neurobiology, Psychology
Certificates: Biocore, Health and the Humanities, Health Policy, LGBTQ+ Studies, and Leadership

The Biocore program supported my growth as a professional, scholar, and advocate. From my classmates to the faculty, I was driven to challenge myself and enrich my scientific understanding. Beyond the curriculum, I found a space for advocacy. With my co-researcher Sarah Almutawa and support from Biocore mentors, we investigated the impact of Imposter Phenomenon and sense of belonging on underrepresented honors students within the program. We presented our promising findings at Research in the Rotunda to state legislators and important campus figures. Through this experience, I solidified my commitment to advocacy for the underserved and underrepresented. For the first time, I felt like I had a voice on something that matters. This culminates in a desire to earn an MPH during medical school to dedicate myself to equity and service.


Portrait of Wisconsin Honors Student Cayden Kirkpatrick

Cayden Kirkpatrick

Majors: Astronomy-Physics, History, French
Certificate: American Indian & Indigenous Studies

The L&S Honors Program has supported me throughout my academic journey. I was able to receive funding from the L&S Honors Program to participate in the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) Leadership Summit, which got me more involved within the organization and ultimately led to me becoming the UW-Madison chapter president. My participation within the Honors program has also allowed me to pursue a history senior honors thesis, which I am currently undertaking and will help me advance toward my career goals. Working with the Honors Program has enriched my experience at UW-Madison by making my courses more intellectually stimulating and connecting me with a community of other like-minded students.


Portrait of Wisconsin Honors Student Emilie Reese

Emilie Reese

Major: Nursing

One unique aspect of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s nursing program is the ability to take part in research projects. Through the Nursing Honors program, I was matched with someone from the research faculty and was able to work on my own research poster. My research focused on how lifetime stress can contribute to the development of depression, and how stress and depression could play a role in cognitive impairment later in life. I had the opportunity to present my work at Research in the Rotunda, where I got to discuss my findings with local legislators. Sharing my research findings with government officials highlighted my ability to make a large-scale impact in the future. Even if one wants to be a traditional nurse, the honors program is a great way to see how research findings can be applied to clinical practice to help improve health outcomes for all.


Portrait of Wisconsin Honors Student Sophia Schoenfeld

Sophia Schoenfeld

Major: Biology
Certificates: Global Health, Health Policy

Guided by a three-year undergraduate timeline, I have tailored my research experience in Reproductive Endocrinology and Lactation Physiology through the CALS Honors in Research program. In this program, I gained insights into fundamental research principles from both faculty and my fellow Honors students through symposiums and seminars. With support from the Honors program and my dedicated mentors, I earned a research fellowship from the Brittingham Wisconsin Trust/Kemper K. Knapp Bequest during my freshman year, which funded a multi-pronged project investigating the impact of cortisol on disease, and the Hilldale Fellowship, which sponsored my Honors Thesis on serotonin signaling and the impact of SSRIs during lactation. CALS Honors and my immersive research experience have furthered my passion for intricate problem-solving and inquiry-driven scholarship, which I will carry into my pursuits of blending clinical medicine and research exploration as a future physician.


Portrait of Wisconsin Honors Student Jiayan Zhang

Jiayan Zhang

Major: Engineering Mechanics (+ Aerospace Option)
Certificate: Computer Science

Since my sophomore year, I have been working with Professor Thevamaran from the Department of Mechanical Engineering. We are working on the design of a passive hearing implant that mirrors the human middle ear’s natural hearing mechanisms. This year, I was honored with the Faustin Prinz Research Fellowship to pursue my undergraduate honors thesis in Engineering Mechanics. The Engineering Honors in Research program offers a unique opportunity for me to receive research and career mentorship from Professor Thevamaran, gain research experience in his laboratory, and enhance my skills in analytical thinking, collaborating, and scientific communication—skills transferable across all disciplines. I strongly believe this experience will greatly benefit my academic and career pursuits in my Ph.D. and beyond.