Presidential Fellow Goes Premed And Beyond
Like many prospective students, Ben Longwell ‘12 considered a large university—until he learned more about Washington College.
“I thought I wanted to go to school in a big metropolis, but a big place with a huge student body is not always best. I realized this after visiting campus, sitting in on classes and talking to students, but I was very skeptical at first,” he remembers.
Ben, who was selected as a Presidential Fellow as an incoming freshman, immediately became immersed in campus life. A biology major minoring in chemistry and philosophy, he was a two-year member of the varsity swim team, and he works on campus as a tour guide, resident assistant, and member of the Honor Board.
“The swim team was a great social tool to help me get to know so many people,” he says. “From your teammates, you start to meet people in fraternities and sororities and other organizations and, pretty soon, you know the entire campus.”
The same community atmosphere exists in the classroom. “It’s a really nurturing environment with plenty of help along the way if you need it,” says Ben, who has had the unique experience of conducting cancer research under the direction of assistant professor of biology, Dr. Mindy Reynolds.
“I’m looking at the toxic effects of cadmium and nickel on cells and researching how it gets into the water. For as advanced as this is, Dr. Reynolds is very, very good at realizing that we are still undergrads and we make mistakes,” he says. “She’s very patient and so enthusiastic, which makes for a great working environment.”
The experience has been so eye-opening for Ben that he’s even considering pursuing medical research programs in graduate school.
“Research has serious implications for medical treatments,” he says. About three weeks into their research, McDonald’s recalled Shrek glasses because they were contaminated with cadmium, one of the metals Ben was working with.
“That’s something tangible,” Ben says. “It’s nice to see that what we’re doing can have a visible impact in the world, and it’s so cool we’re able to do this at the undergrad level. That’s rare.”
Ben, a member of the Beta Beta Beta honor society for biology, is on the premed track and aspires to a medical career, most likely in orthopedic or cardio thoracic surgery.
“I want to pursue something that I can wake up in the morning and feel good about,” he says. “I like to think Washington College is putting me on a path that will help me make a small part of the world better.”
But Ben’s interests aren’t limited to the natural sciences. A contributor to The Collegian literary magazine, he earned Honorable Mention for his humorous essay about working as a lifeguard.
“I wrote it as a way to release some stress, to get a break from writing papers. I called it ‘Trading a Whistle for a Pitchfork,’ and it was really, really fun to write. It proves you don’t need to be an English major to contribute to the literary culture here,” he says.
For Ben, it’s just another example of Washington College’s liberal arts environment in action.
“Here, you have opportunities to try new things and find your niche - you’re not confined to your major,” he says. “It broadens your horizons and allows you to pursue your passions.”
- Major: Biology
- Minor: Chemistry and Philosophy
- Presidential Fellow
- Admissions Tour Guide
- Resident Assistant
Q & A
- Hometown and high school? East Greenville, PA/Upper Perkiomen