Scholar Spotlight

High Five!

Wisconsin Scholar Nate Cira graduated in May 2011 with five majors -- yes, five!

When Nate Cira started college, the plan was to get in and get out quickly. With all the college credit he amassed in high school, he figured it would take 3 years. But after living in the Evans Scholars house, his plan changed.

“I was enjoying my time in Madison, so I decided to stay and just take more courses,” Cira said. “Then I thought I’d pick up an extra major.”

Turns out, he graduated with five.

Cira has always been a curious kid. As a child, he took apart anything within reach. Once winter evening, Cira’s dad came home to find his son using tools to pry open the family TV.

In college, Cira channeled that energy into science. While volunteering at a Madison ER, he discovered his passion for medical research. Since, he’s conducted several projects, making medical discoveries along the way. One project is a device that can replace a joint in the human finger. Another uses bacteria to destroy chemical weapons.

Cira has also worked with NASA, using a grant to build a rocket with fellow Scholar Dan Grossheim (Wis. ’13). In competition with others, they had to launch the rocket 2,000 feet, landing it on a target.

“I thought we’d just be shooting off little bottle rocket-sized things, but the rockets people were building were huge,” Cira said. “The one we launched was 8 feet. It was a lot of fun.”

Cira once spent his summers caddying at North Shore Country Club in Mequon, Wis. He spent summer 2010 conducting research at the University of California – Berkeley. There he developed a device to isolate single cells. He says you can use it for a variety of purposes, from drug testing to understanding genetics. He returned during winter break, putting on some finishing touches in order to be published.

This summer, Cira is trying something he says is “just for fun.” He is developing a test doctors can use to determine what kind and how much of an antibiotic to give to a patient.

“I’m very excited about this one,” he said.

Cira does have another version of fun: travel. He’s traveled all over the U.S., but his favorite trip was a winter excursion with friends to visit a fellow Scholar, Sam Irwin (Wis. ’11), in Germany. They took that opportunity to visit Italy, Switzerland, France, Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands as well.

“It was a whirlwind tour,” Cira reminisced.

Now with a college diploma and majors of biomedical engineering, biochemistry, biology, microbiology and molecular biology in his back pocket, Cira will embark on the next phase of his life – graduate school. After applying to several of the nation’s top schools, Cira has decided on Stanford, where he will pursue a PhD in bioengineering beginning in fall 2011. He ultimately hopes to become a professor or start his own business selling his inventions.

Beyond innate curiosity, Cira says the Evans Scholarship motivated him to success.

“It was such a gift,” Cira said. “I felt like people had made an investment in me, and I needed to do something with that. This is my way of honoring that investment.”


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