Undergraduate Academic Affairs

February 11, 2015

Adding drama to neuroscience

Audrey Lawrence

When he’s not researching spontaneous brain activity or practicing his Danish, you will probably find UW senior and 2013-14 junior president’s medalist Mitchell Krawczyk moving set pieces for the Undergraduate Theater Society in the depths of Hutchinson Hall, where he volunteers as an assistant stage manager and social media coordinator.

Neurobiology & psychocology major Mitchell Krawczyk has worked on seven productions with the Undergraduate Theater Society.

Mitchell Krawczyk has worked on seven productions with the Undergraduate Theater Society.

Through theater, language study and a commitment to a future career in neuroscience (he hopes to get his Ph.D. one day), this Interdisciplinary Honors student’s intellectual curiosity and drive to discover have found an outlet at the University of Washington, where he can pursue left and right brain activities simultaneously, a stimulating combination for a student majoring in neurobiology and psychology.

At the UW Bosma lab of brainstem development he works with a team to investigate spontaneous activity in the developmental brain, which “could lead to breakthroughs in understanding how the brain wires itself,” he says. In addition to the exciting implications of such work, he notes that “practical experience in research is hugely important for admittance and success in graduate programs.” He found a supportive mentor in Dr. Bosma — despite Krawczyk’s reputation for eating all the chocolate in the lab — who offered him the chance to design experiments and practice independent scientific thought: skills that are crucial to his future scientific studies.

Where research has allowed him to go deeper into his chosen field, freedom in his class schedule made it possible to learn another language this year, something he always wanted to do. An engaging instructor encouraged his introductory Danish class to have fun despite their “awful pronunciation and hilarious malapropisms,” as Krawczyk remembers. As he advances in his studies and coursework becomes more prescribed, it will be harder to take classes just because he wants to; Danish class “helped remind me how fun learning can be.”

About President’s Medalists 

Medalists are undergraduate students of the highest caliber whose academic pursuits demonstrate interdisciplinary interests and whose co-curricular and extracurricular activities show breadth and depth of expertise. The junior medal is awarded to the senior demonstrating such distinctions for his or her first three undergraduate years.

He gets a different sort of fulfillment with the Undergraduate Theater Society (UTS), noting that “standing backstage waiting to move a set piece or even press a button precisely on time is thrilling in a way that an experiment rarely is.” Sitting on the UTS board of directors builds his leadership skills, and he gets to spend time with other students who share his “zany humor” and appreciation for witty theater memes.

Involvement in the theater world also provides a sense of balance that this future scientist appreciates. “My involvement [in drama] connects me to the arts, which has very different guiding principles,” says Krawczyk, “and I think my exposure to those points of view help make me a more balanced person.” Surely, future colleagues will appreciate his sense of humor and interdisciplinary approach as they tackle important research questions, as long as he learns to share the chocolate.