Ben Allwein ’18 is a scientist and a humanitarian—a true example of a liberal arts education in practice.
The third-year Biochemistry & Molecular Biology major has immersed himself in primary research as a Fellow for the Parlee Center for Science and the Common Good (CSCG), as well as through Ursinus’s Summer Fellows program and a study abroad experience in Costa Rica. And yet, his work with the Bonner Program has helped him remain cognizant of the importance of service and ethics, and how to apply those notions to all that he does.
For Allwein, Ursinus has been a place of unbridled opportunity and intellectual exploration. His work with the Summer Fellows and CSCG has led him to conceptualize, develop and complete his own molecular biology research project, something not many undergraduate students from other colleges have the ability to do.
“I have seen my project develop from its infancy to my presenting it at national conferences, guided the entire way by my mentor’s and my own ever-deepening questions,” says Allwein. “It’s validated my conviction that inquiry and curiosity are some of the most powerful intellectual tools we have; and in order to progress my research and education ever forward, the best way to do so is by asking questions, both big and small.”
Allwein plans to continue his research in his senior year. He will also participate for a second time in a short-term study abroad program, “Biology of the Neotropics,” with Professors Ellen Dawley and Robert Dawley in Costa Rica. This time—in addition to completing ecology research—he will mentor other students as a teaching assistant for the three-and-a-half week course.
But Allwein’s education at Ursinus has not been limited to or defined by his time researching in the lab or out in the field. His involvement with the Bonner Leader Program, which emphasizes leadership and service as a way of better understanding one’s place in the world, has given him a broader awareness of the life he wants to lead. This is a reflection of the ethos of the liberal arts that permeates the college’s learning atmosphere.
“An Ursinus education ensures that I never stray too far from the values of morality and civic responsibility that I’ve developed so heavily during my classes and my work with the Bonner Program,” Allwein says. “I will always hold that the best way to prepare for the future is not to focus on the minutiae, but instead reflect upon how to lead a life of purpose, of reason and of compassion.”
Allwein says that his faculty and staff mentors from across disciplines have encouraged him to think this way, and it is a mindset that he will carry with him long after he leaves the college’s campus. After graduation, he plans to attend graduate school, earn a Ph.D. and, ultimately, become a professor at a college or university. He is grateful for the experiences that he has had at Ursinus so far, and for the financial support from the college—in the form of a named scholarship and grants—that made it possible for him to attend. He deeply values the connections he has made at Ursinus, calling them “formative influences on [his] life’s course,” and believes they will impact his future and the life he hopes to lead.