Katya Schwieterman

At Lewis & Clark, I can be a massive chemistry nerd, a musician, an athlete, and a regular person all at the same time, which isn’t possible at many other schools.

Katya Schwieterman BA '24



Degree and Class Year

BA ’24


Paonia, Colorado


Biochemistry and Molecular Biology




Wind Symphony, Cross Country/Track and Field, Lab Research with Dr. Sharon Torigoe

Overseas study

Berlin, Fall 2023

What three words would you use to describe L&C?

Collaborative, Interconnected, Joyous

Rogers Summer Science Research, June 2023

Describe what you are researching this summer. What is your exact role?

I’m working with Dr. Sharon Torigoe on a project that examines pluripotent stem cells. Specifically, I’m using electrophoretic mobility shift assays with a tiny piece of DNA and a protein to evaluate how proteins bind to “junk” DNA and help regulate when and how pluripotency genes are expressed. This means that I spend my days with a centrifuge, acrylamide gel and micropipettes, making short chunks of fluorescent DNA and mixing them with protein.

What’s the best part of this experience?

I love learning about the other Rogers projects! My labmates are the coolest, and the collaboration and support we can give one another when the lab gods are angry makes it all so much fun. Every week, we learn about a few of the other Rogers labs, and their projects are fascinating and it’s incredibly empowering to see our young scientists grow.

How were you supported in finding and securing this research opportunity?

I first considered applying to the Rogers program in an office hours chat with Dr. Torigoe. A few other students and I were asking questions about a regular homework assignment, and we also spoke about classes and other experiences available at L&C, which encouraged me to apply.

How do you see this experience leading to a career in your chosen field and/or aiding in your career development after L&C?

Working in an L&C lab has been a fabulous introduction to research, since I have autonomy over my project with lots of support from my faculty leader and the help of my labmates. This kind of experience is uncommon for undergraduates, and I know it will bolster my applications for laboratory jobs and graduate school.

Life at L&C, Spring 2023

What’s your favorite class? Why?

No class has been as illuminating, fascinating, and downright fun as Neurobiology with Associate Professor Tamily Weissman-Unni. This course fully delved into the mechanics and properties of neurons and the nervous system, and it brought me into a group of enthusiastic students with a fervor to discuss, learn, and grow in the field of neuroscience.

What made you want to come to Lewis & Clark?

At Lewis & Clark, I can be a massive chemistry nerd, a musician, an athlete, and a regular person all at the same time, which isn’t possible at many other schools.

What do you like or find most interesting about your major?

Biochemistry makes life make so much more sense! It provides a network for the functions of every living organism. Combined with molecular biology, which is just a giant puzzle game where we try to see how tiny things interact, this major is, quite literally, the mechanism of life.

What do you like or find most interesting about your minor?

The human brain has evolved into an incredibly complex system with fantastic quirks, which neuroscience seeks to understand. For example, different colors can increase focus for reasons rooted in human evolution. It’s a new field, a captivating one, and studying it brings me joy along with developing new skills.

Tell us about your support systems and social outlets on campus: people, activities, clubs, res halls, etc.

At this point, the music department—specifically Wind Symphony, Orchestra, and the Zimbabwean Music Ensemble—are largely responsible for my sanity. Music is a time to laugh, collaborate, and bring something powerful to the community around us! It’s because of music that I can continue to be the best student possible.

If you went on a New Student Trip with College Outdoors, how did it shape your experience as an incoming student?

My virtual New Student Trip was a lot of Zoom meetings, but I do still have friends from it!

If you have studied or will study overseas while at Lewis & Clark, how did you choose your program? What did your overseas study add to your L&C experience?

I will study abroad in Berlin next fall, which works perfectly with my science major. It will provide a network of new people, all while deepening my cross-cultural understanding and delving into history.

What advice do you have for incoming students?

Lewis & Clark is a small school, which means our community is strengthened by people who choose to learn new things and contribute to many groups and activities. Embrace your diverse interests, find all sorts of new people in different places. We need you to be engaged in all the places and activities you love, and all the places you will discover you love!

Did you visit campus before deciding to come to L&C? How did your visit influence your decision to attend?

I didn’t have the chance to visit due to COVID-19. I jumped in blind, but I can’t imagine myself anywhere else.

Which residence halls have you lived in? How would you describe the hall’s personality? What is/was the best thing about living on campus?

I am a Forest dweller, first and foremost. Quirky and cozy, these halls have a mix of room types with great vibes.

Have you had the opportunity to do research with a professor? If so, please describe the project and the experience.

Under the direction of Assistant Professor Sharon Torigoe, I have developed and carried out a series of experiments related to gene regulation and transcription factors, the little proteins that tell DNA when to be on and off. Dr. Torigoe has guided me through the process while pushing me to build my independent research skills, and learning from my labmates and their projects. The autonomy I have over my projects as an undergraduate is unparalleled, and I know that with Dr. Torigoe’s help, I will be very prepared for graduate school and the gigantic world of science.

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Neuroscience