Michael Stein ‘80

Michael Stein ‘80 fun profile with his dog in his library

As a high school student, I was adrift. I cared more about friends, dating and having fun than learning, maturing, or readying myself for adult life. I procrastinated assignments, cut corners on learning, and was content with mediocre performance. I did just enough studying to stay out of trouble with my teachers and parents, but no more. When I stepped on the Lawrence Campus, I underwent a rather sudden and remarkable transformation. I am not sure if it was removing myself from the environment where mediocrity was acceptable, if I sensed and adapted to a culture of scholarship and excellence, or if I just “grew up.” Rather suddenly, I had a thirst for learning, a desire to excel and an attitude of questioning nearly everything. I learned critical thinking in Freshman Studies and was encouraged to hone this skill throughout my years at Lawrence. The knack for critical thinking that I learned as a Lawrence undergraduate has served me throughout my professional and personal life. By my junior year, I spent nearly every Friday evening at a local fish fry, debating issues with a few students and a biology (Mike LaMarca) and philosophy (Bill Boardman) professor who made these Friday gatherings a routine. We would argue, discuss, and educate each other over dinner, then retire to one of the professor’s homes to continue the debate. By the time we stumbled back onto campus in the early hours of Saturday morning, we were tired, a little inebriated and intellectually stimulated in a way that cannot be taught in a classroom. My senior year I developed a life-long passion for scientific research. I identified a sponsor (Cliff Joel, in Chemistry) and obtained a small research grant to support a senior research project in lipid biochemistry. This experience, as much as the Friday evening discussion club, was formative to my life’s pursuits. After graduating Lawrence and moving on to medical school at the University of Illinois, I focused on research with an energy and drive that defined me. I identified a research sponsor again, and basked in discovering some little, tiny morsel of understanding of physiology, knowing that I was the first person to learn and understand it. I was delighted that it was now my responsibility to publish and teach the rest of the world what I had learned. This passion for research and appreciation for its profound implications would not have been possible had I not first learned and appreciated it at Lawrence. I would go on to a career defined by a passion for research that would, quite literally, not been possible without my Lawrence education and experience.