"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

'Covers the campus like the magnolias'
"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

"Covers the campus like the magnolias"

Old Gold & Black

Biology: Ellie Butler

Evan Harris

When senior Ellie Butler was in seventh grade, she got a concussion during a horse riding competition. She was forced to visit the neurologist multiple times that year — although “forced” may be a poor choice of words, considering that nine years later, it’s a big reason she is a biology major.

“I really loved going to the neurologist and thought it was really interesting,” Butler said. “And so I really wanted to keep learning more about that.”

Butler admitted, however, that her path from there to being a biology major today wasn’t an easy one. Butler is from Monterey, Calif. and she hated biology in high school. In fact, she went as far as to say she believed she was bad at science in general.

“I didn’t have good [biology] teachers [in high school],” Butler said. “I liked neuroscience, but I was like, ‘Looks like I have to put that to bed because it’s not [going to] work out.’”

When Butler got to Wake Forest, she had no intention of taking a science class ever again. Her boyfriend Leo Silenzi, who was also picked by the biology department for the Old Gold & Black’s Graduation Tabloid in 2022, encouraged her to give it another try. Silenzi was also, as Butler described it, “a neuro person.”

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Luckily, Butler’s experience with professors at Wake Forest was contrary to her high school experience. Butler started working at retired Professor Robert A. Silver’s lab, researching earthworms and chemesthesis

“[Dr. Silver] was a really great mentor,” Butler said. “He was the [recipient] of all my panic emails, in general and not just regarding school.”

Butler is excited to return to Boston, Mass. to work as a research assistant in Crickmore Lab at Harvard Medical School, which investigates the molecular mechanisms underlying behavior using fruit flies. Last summer, she worked as an undergraduate intern in the Kaeser Lab to research synaptic transmission. 

Butler emphasized her desire to experience her passions in the real world before applying to graduate school for neuroscience, which is her long-term goal.

“My plan is to do two years, but obviously if I come across a project that I would want to stay [at Harvard Medical School] for, I’d consider three years,” Butler said.

Butler continued to emphasize the ability to apply what she’s learning outside the classroom — including within Wake Forest’s walls. To her, neuroscience weaves into her everyday life, and she loves realizing it. More than anything, she’s proud of the confidence the major has given her.

“If you want to do something, you’re capable,” Butler said. “I know it’s naive to say that, but I really believe it.”

According to Butler’s good friend Una Wilson, this rings more than true. 

Wilson describes Butler’s work ethic as beyond what most people are willing to do — especially when it comes to science. Butler’s love for learning helped her triumph every academic challenge and contributed to her rise to success.

According to Wilson, there’s a certain gleam in Butler’s eye when she speaks about her major, a passion the Old Gold & Black could also see.

“She is an inspiration to try,” Wilson said. “Try something you care about, even if you aren’t good at it or it doesn’t come naturally to you. Passion and dedication got [Butler] where she is today and I am so proud of her for giving herself the opportunity of happiness in doing what she truly loves.”

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About the Contributor
Shaila Prasad
Shaila Prasad, Deputy Editor
Shaila is a junior from New Delhi, India, and South Florida majoring in economics and minoring in journalism and psychology. Outside of the OGB, you can find her listening to Tyler, the Creator, scrolling through Depop and taking pickleball incredibly seriously. 

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