STEM speaker holds open forum on biophysics

Andrew Kicmol, Staff Writer

Dr. Julia Nepper opened the spring semester Stem Center Speaker Series on Feb. 28. Nepper earned her doctorate’s degree in biophysics at age 23 and minored in science communication.

Speaking in front of a classroom on the second floor, her presentation was what she called “an open forum.” At any time, people in the crowd could ask a question about biophysics or about continuing their education.

Her style allowed for a more relaxed atmosphere, less of a lecture on biophysics and more of a “here’s why biophysics is interesting” discussion. “People should be interested in biophysics because it’s the future of biology,” Nepper said.

She talked about types of worms that can be useful in the garden to the more complicated, “Biophysics is becoming a lot more quantitative. Moving away from just making observations and trying to be able to make predictions. We’re trying to build models where we can say if we have X and Y we will get Z and D.”
The forum yielded many questions from the audience, which included both students and faculty interested.

Nepper stopped to answer every single question from the classroom, addressing topics like how to pursue an internship in a lab, who to talk to if you want to pursue graduate school along with many others. Her advice to anyone planning on going to graduate school is be prepared to do a lot of research.

She also gave some insight into what it was like for her going through college so young. She spoke about the influence of her parents and the mentor who was a major helping hand for her as she tried to navigate through undergrad and graduate school.

After her presentation, Nepper explained how she is using her minor in science communication to help explain not only her major of biophysics but science in general, to help show why science is important.

“It’s important to have an understanding of science, it’s a way of thinking of about things, a way of approaching problems, systematically arriving at good answers to problems. I think it’s important for anyone to have a good understanding of science because it can be helpful in your daily life,” said Nepper.

Nepper visited a couple of schools in Sun Prairie prior to coming to speak at Madison College, explaining that she wanted to give back to anyone beginning their career.

“I think it was helpful for me as a student to see how people get to where they are… The unknown can be scary and if you can put a few words and steps in front of it, it’s a little less intimidating and a little more possible,” she said.

Additional STEM speakers are scheduled throughout the semester. Check out to see who and when.