McAllister and Hesse will complete chemistry degree in three years

December 18, 2012

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Erin McAllister


PLATTEVILLE, Wis. — Seniors Lisa Hesse, from Kenosha, Wis. and Erin McAllister, from Cresco, Iowa, both know the meaning of hard work at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. They will graduate in May 2013 with American Chemical Society certified degrees in chemistry with biochemistry emphases after only three years of study. Both students were involved in the Alchemist Club on campus and both worked on various undergraduate research projects. McAllister will hope to continue her graduate studies in food science at Iowa State, and Hesse hopes to pursue her graduate studies in pharmaceutical studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

McAllister and Hesse took between 17 and 18 credits each semester in order to complete their graduation requirements in time. In addition, McAllister took Physics One, Physics Two and a Russian History class over the summer, and Hesse will be taking a general education requirement class during the winterim session.

“We learned organization and perseverance in order to become successful,” McAllister said. She also works as a resident assistant in McGregor Hall, is a member of Sigma Alpha Iota and is also a Peer Assisted Learning tutor for general chemistry classes. “It is a balancing act that sometimes gets crazy, but it is all part of the experience of doing what you want to accomplish,” she said.

Lisa Hesse


Hesse, along with McAllister, is actively involved in the Alchemist Club. Hesse is also involved in the service organization Circle K and was awarded the Pioneer Undergraduate Research Fellowship for undergraduate research. Both Hesse and McAllister traveled during their undergraduate studies to present research they had developed while still in school.

“This is something that you definitely cannot do alone,” Hesse said. “You get to your breaking point, and then you discover someone who is going through the exact same things and you realize that you aren’t alone and you can accomplish what you set out to do.”

Hesse and McAllister met in their Unity of Life class and have taken a variety of classes together ever since. They also work on the same research projects with Dr. Chanaka Mendis in the chemistry department, exploring pathways of cell death and cell signaling. The chemistry department, particularly their advisor and research professor, Mendis, has been essential for McAllister and Hesse’s degrees.

“Dr. Mendis subbed once for my general chemistry lab, and I asked him if I could switch so he could be my advisor,” said Hesse. “It was getting involved in his research that lead me to ultimately pursue what I want to do.”

“The chemistry department is like a family,” said McAllister. “Each professor has an impact on you and remembers who you are and what you want to do, even if a couple of semesters have passed. They all want to see you succeed.”

McAllister, who worked over the summer at Crescoe Food Technologies, LLC, wants to pursue a career as a food chemist to make food products more efficient and eliminate food additives to make food healthier. Hesse completed an internship at Coating Place Incorporated, a pharmaceutical company, where she realized her desire to pursue a graduate degree in pharmaceutical medicine. She eventually wants to work in cancer research medicine to make it work more efficiently with the human body.

Contact: Chanaka Mendis, Chemical Engineering, (608) 342-1692,

Written by: Angela O’Brien, UW-Platteville University Information and Communications, (608) 342-1194,

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