Evelyn Dziekan

Evelyn Dziekan `24.
Evelyn Dziekan `24.
Levi Magill

Evelyn Dziekan `24, a biological chemistry (biochem) major, spends most of her time at Grinnell in the lab or, as she call its, “her home place.” 

When she’s not researching protein mutants or understanding the gut microbiome of preterm infants, she said she works for the Mayflower, drives to Highway 6 to watch the sunset and supports her international friends by performing in the International Student Organization’s cultural night. 

For the past three semesters, Dziekan said she has been working on a Mentored Advanced Project (MAP) with Professor Marzluff in the biochem department. Originally starting as an independent project in her third year, Dziekan said her project focuses on the protein MTHFR to trace mutants in the amino acid sequence. 

“It’s kind of bittersweet, though. Because I’ve been working on the project for so long. I just really love spending my time in the lab because it’s kind of my home place,” she said. “But in the end, I feel like I’ve really completed a project.”  

This past spring break, she presented her research at the American Chemical Society Conference in New Orleans. 

“What I really appreciate about Grinnell is that professors really do care, and they really want to make sure you’re learning and able to succeed as much as you can. So when they push you to conferences like this, I feel like it just makes me a lot more confident in myself,” she said. 

Dziekan also said she thought presenting her own work on “mass spec” — or mass spectrometry, a tool that can help measure ions — was really cool. “I think the mass spec is like the coolest machine.” 

In addition to her MAP research, Dziekan said she spent two summers interning at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. 

In 2022, she worked in the immunology department, researching novel ways to prevent preterm birth. 

The next summer, she sequenced infant and preterm infants’ poop in order to understand their gut microbiome and to determine if the immune component, IGA, was found in their samples. 

“From that first summer experience, I knew how to work in a lab, but honestly, I would find myself being really happy to always talk about it and keep going to the lab,” she said. “There were so many experiments that failed that summer, and I just felt like I was never unmotivated.”

These experiences, she said, “solidified that I want to go into research.”

Dziekan has also served as a skill, or a mentor who attends class and hosts homework sessions, for some biology and chemistry classes. 

“I love it because something I really want to do in my future is stay within academia,” she said. 

In the future, she said she hopes to be a professor at a large university so that she can combine her passion for research and teaching. As a mentor, “being able to help students especially when they are struggling and then you say something and that light bulb goes off like, ‘Oh, I finally got it,’ — that’s my favorite moment at skill sessions and something I really like doing.” 

After graduation, Dziekan will be attending The Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences in its immunology department. 

“The immune system is absolutely fascinating. You’re telling me you’re born with everything you need from the beginning of your life, and then it helps you survive? It’s really cool,” she said. 

In addition to her biochem classes, Dziekan said she has loved taking classes with Professor Tapias in the anthropology department, as well as her current class, Historical Landscapes of Grinnell, with Professor Lacson and Professor Jakubiak, which discusses how the town of Grinnell has changed over time. 

Dziekan also started volunteering at the Mayflower Community, a retirement home in the town of Grinnell, in the spring of her second year. 

Now, she works with the community to host volunteer events that students can join. This April, she said she hosted events such as rock painting, “which was a blast.” 

The immune system is absolutely fascinating. You’re telling me you’re born with everything you need from the beginning of your life, and then it helps you survive?

— Evelyn Dziekan `24.

“I love working there. It brings me so much joy,” she said. “It’s been one of the most rewarding jobs at Grinnell.” 

Back home in Chicago, Dziekan works at a nursing home, so she said the Mayflower was a familiar community. 

Her parents immigrated from Poland, and she said she is the first in her family to engage in the sciences and attend college. 

She remembers visiting Grinnell for the first time with her dad, and the two of them ended up loving the school. 

Applying early decision for Grinnell “was probably the best decision I’ve ever made,” she said. 

Looking back on her four years, Dziekan said, “I think coming to a liberal arts school has given me a lot more perspectives than I used to have, and meeting a lot of people that think very differently than me has also really shaped who I am today, and [is] something I’ll forever be grateful for.” 

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