Rebecca Walker is a biochemistry and molecular biology major from Winston-Salem, N.C. Originally interested in studying biology, Walker was drawn to her current major when she began doing research.
The two classes that Walker credits for her interest in the major are Biochemistry and Organic Chemistry II.
“I really liked how biochemistry is more in-depth biology and slightly less in-depth chemistry, so it was [a mixture of] the two,” Walker said.
Walker also chose the major because of the research opportunities it provided.
“It’s a very research-focused major, and I feel like I’ve learned a lot through the research experiences that I’ve had,” Walker said. “I also wanted to learn more in the classroom about biochemistry and molecular biology, too.”
When asked what she liked most about studying biochemistry and molecular biology at Wake Forest, Walker responded, “I like that it’s a smaller major and very close-knit. There are a couple of things ingrained into it, including senior classes, a senior research project and a senior seminar. I like that there are these senior-specific classes that are focused on reading and writing scientific literature.”
One class Walker enjoyed in particular was Dr. Lindsay Comstock’s biochemistry class, which Walker took in the spring of 2020. Walker wasn’t troubled when the class — taught by her major advisor — shifted online.
“Rebecca was an outstanding student in my class. She was very conscientious and inquisitive,” Comstock said. “She always pushed me during office hours with difficult questions so that her comprehension of biochemistry was rooted in fundamental concepts that could be applied to her future career in medicine.”
Walker has also taken two classes with Dr. Sarah McDonald Esstman, whom she praised for bringing great energy to each class and finding unique ways to engage her students.
“I took a very methods-heavy class [with Dr. Esstman], but it was one of the most interesting classes I’ve ever taken,” Walker said. “I didn’t think that methods would necessarily be super interesting to me, but the way she teaches it is very innovative and engaging.”
For her part, Esstman said, “Rebecca is an outstanding student who was a joy to teach! She is hardworking, curious and a critical thinker.”
Esstman continued, discussing Walker’s exceptional accomplishments: “Her commitment to her undergraduate research project with Dr. David Ornelles at Wake Forest School of Medicine (Dept. of Microbiology and Immunology) really makes her stand out to me. Through her work, she uncovered novel findings about how a virus, called adenovirus, produces its key proteins when inside of host cells. She documented her findings in the form of a senior thesis, written as part of the BMB capstone course (BMB395). It is an impressive contribution to the field!”
Walker said that one of her proudest achievements was receiving funding through URECA for a Wake Forest research fellowship. With it, she undertook the research project she is basing her Honors Thesis upon.
Another one of her memorable accomplishments was winning an honorary Richter Scholarship. Walker planned to go to Brazil to study the relationship between deforestation and dengue fever in the Amazon, but these plans fell through due to COVID-19.
Her advice to freshmen interested in pursuing biochemistry and molecular biology: start research early. “It can be really hard to get into a research lab. You usually have to email a ton of people, and they’ll say ‘no,’ and that’s okay,” Walker said. “It’s kind of an intimidating process, but the more time you get to spend doing research, the more rewarding it is.”
Walker touched on experiencing her final year of college under COVID-19 restrictions and said, “I’m a little sad about the ending. I’ve felt a little distanced from Wake, but I know that the university’s done a lot to mediate that.”
Walker had the privilege of taking most of her classes in person this semester because of her status as a senior in a smaller major, which she greatly appreciated.
“I find it hard to focus staring at my computer screen for a really long time, so I really enjoyed this semester, particularly because most of my classes were in person.”
Looking towards the future, Walker is applying to medical school this cycle. Next year, she is planning on taking a gap year and undertaking a political analysis research position.
Walker plans to maintain a relationship with the biochemistry and molecular biology departments here at Wake Forest. “I think with the new president coming into Wake Forest that the program will expand,” she said. “I definitely want to stay engaged with that and offer any expertise I can to future majors as a recent alumna.”