Q&A with 2023 winter graduate, Madisson Delebeck

On Sunday, Dec. 17, UW–Madison and the School of Education will be celebrating its latest cohort of talented graduates with 2023 Winter Commencement celebrations. Ahead of the big day, we reached out to a few of our graduating students to learn more about their accomplishments, time at UW–Madison, and future plans.

Madisson Delebeck, who is graduating with bachelor’s degrees in art and biochemistry, with a certificate in classical studies, is one student who agreed to share their thoughts with us.

Delebeck explains that when she first arrived at UW–Madison, she had intended on pursuing a bachelor’s degree in astronomy-physics.

Madisson Delebeck
Madisson Delebeck

“I quickly realized that, although I loved physics in high school, it wasn’t the type of opportunity I saw myself being fully content with,” she explains. “I changed majors multiple times throughout my academic career, but I found my true passion through the (School of Education’s) Art Department at the beginning of my sophomore year.”

And while art and biochemistry might seem like two, very different majors, Delebeck explains how they fit well with who she is and how she thinks.

“I want to show people that they don’t have to settle for one field of study, even if their goals are across multiple, incredibly different, fields,” she says. “I could not imagine a life where I didn’t enrich myself in both the sciences and the arts. I couldn’t have done that without UW-Madison.”

To learn more, check out this Q&A with Delebeck:

Where are you from, and what drew you to UW–Madison and the Art Department? I’m from Antigo, Wisconsin, a town about three hours straight north of Madison with a population of 8,000. My graduating class was about 210 people, and while the arts were prevalent in school, the variety of techniques paled in comparison to everything I got to see at UW. Here, I was surrounded by room upon room of different studios, different technology, and thousands of creative minds. This was a place where I could leave my comfort zone, express whatever my heart desired, and be surrounded by like-minded peers. I ended up falling into photography and 3D modeling/animation classes for my artistic focus, something my high school didn’t even have as an opportunity. I never would’ve found these passions if it wasn’t for the cutting-edge opportunities available at UW-Madison.

What can you tell us about also wanting to major in biochemistry? I didn’t declare biochemistry as a major until well into my academic career. I had never even taken chemistry in high school, and I heard rumors that organic chemistry was brutal, so I avoided it as much as possible. However, when the other majors I was considering all had some sort of chemistry requisite, I took the plunge, and it changed my life forever.

The teaching staff was wonderful, and I quickly began to fall in love with this subject I knew nothing about. I was passionate about learning as much as I physically could. Engaging professors like Lea Gustin only fueled this passion further, and she ended up recommending me for a lab assistant role for the general chemistry courses, where she became my boss, mentor, and friend as I got to pass on my love of chemistry to incoming students for two years. This opportunity was easily the most meaningful and impactful experience of my college career. During this time, the Chemistry Building was remodeled, so I had the honor of teaching some of the first lab sections in both the new North Tower and the remodeled Daniels Wing. It was incredible to see how the lab space was curated specifically for general chemistry, and how the building was laid out to efficiently provide everything a student could need.

On the surface, it doesn’t seem like art and biochemistry have a lot in common. Are there any similarities between the majors or do they work well together in any ways? I ended up loving the visual nature of organic chemistry, and it felt more so like a puzzle to figure out how the mechanisms of certain reactions would fit together. I feel as though my artistic background was able to help me visualize these molecules in three-dimensional space, especially with 3D modeling experience under my belt. As I took more chemistry and biochemistry classes, this method of visualizing the active site of a protein or the functional groups of a molecule became my go to. In my art classes, I noticed the beginnings of a calculated order taking form in my work. Paintings, photos, and 3D models had a precise order of operations — as if I were approaching it the same way I approached a lab procedure. People in my art classes joked that I had a “science brain” because of this, yet people in my STEM classes joked that my thought process was more abstract and freeform than most of my biochem peers. I embraced this ambiguity, placing myself in the center of two very different worlds, fusing them into each other and creating something that lets me stand out from my fellow students.

Are you happy with your time and experiences here at UW–Madison? I had decided to go to UW-Madison because it’s at the cutting edge of research, it was one of few schools to have any sort of astronomy-physics major, and it allowed me to stay within the beautiful (and sometimes freezing) Midwest. Now that I’m graduating, my majors may have changed drastically from my initial intentions, but the heart of my pursuit is more alive than ever. I have gotten to see this campus grow and develop, see the Chemistry Building evolve and change into something incredible for future generations, and experience not only the cutting edge of research, but the cutting edge of industry programs and experimental techniques through the Art Department.

What’s next for you? What are your plans for the future? My post-graduation career is as an analytical chemist at Eurofins, where I get to see a new side to the subject I found such a deep passion for. Although my career is in chemistry and I plan to go back to school to get a PhD in organic chemistry, the arts are continuously surrounding my life. I paint almost every day, I have thousands of pictures on my phone and numerous flash drives, and I enjoy seeing how to push myself to make my animations even more unique.

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