Dual degree program helps honors student engineer get head start

Since grade school, Nick Frazzette has never stopped asking “why?”

“My seventh grade teacher would say that she hated when I raised my hand because I always asked the questions she didn’t know the answers to,” Frazzette said. “That mentality has taken me to where I am today.”

Math and science have always just “clicked” for Frazzette, who just completed his junior year as a Schreyer Honors College Scholar majoring in bioengineering in the College of Engineering.

“I like the way that everything is laid out very logically and it makes sense to me,” Frazzette said. “I have always responded well to teachers who are able to convey the excitement behind science to their students. The professors I have now, especially for honors courses -- it’s very easy to see their passions for the subjects they teach.”

At this point in his academic career, Frazzette’s long-term plans are starting to take shape. He recently enrolled in the Integrated Undergraduate-Graduate (IUG) Program through the Schreyer Honors College to obtain his master of science degree in bioengineering. That decision means he will stay at Penn State through a fifth year and graduate in 2016.

“The IUG program saves precious time and money by combining a curriculum of undergraduate and graduate level classes, which will help me get to med school or a Ph.D. program one year sooner," said Frazzette in explaining his reasons for pursuing an IUG.

“One year makes a difference when you’re going to be in school forever,” he joked.  

Frazzette is very interested in the research side of medicine and hopes to attend medical school after graduation.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the development and testing of new drugs, treatment methodologies for patients and the investigatory manner in which doctors cure various diseases,” Frazzette said.

Fortunately for Frazzette, his honor thesis aligns with those interests. Frazzette’s thesis research on drug delivery methods and nanoparticles is under the supervision of Peter J. Butler, professor of biomedical engineering. He is spending the first seven weeks of the summer working in Butler’s lab.

Frazzette credits being in the Honors College with getting him into a research lab soon after he arrived at Penn State.

“I sent Dr. Butler an email during the first few weeks of my spring semester freshman year and told him that I was a freshman in the Honors College,” Frazzette said. “He immediately responded back that it wasn’t a question of seeing if I fit, but where I fit.”

When he is not in the lab, Frazzette devotes some of his spare time to being a teaching assistant for Leadership JumpStart, a first-year seminar that is one of the Schreyer Honors College’s signature programs for incoming freshmen. In the course, students learn about leadership by designing and implementing a semester-long service project.

“The course is very self-taught, self-reflective, and helps to form early bonds with other students that last through all of college,” said Frazzette, who completed the course the fall of his freshman year. “It’s an honor to be able to help students have the same educational journey that I had through Leadership JumpStart. As much as I like to think I have taught my students something, I can easily say that all 24 of them have taught me something.“

Outside of his studies, Frazzette also is very passionate about Springfield FTK, a student organization that supports THON, Penn State’s dance marathon that raises money for the Four Diamonds Fund, which supports pediatric cancer research and families of pediatric cancer patients. During his sophomore year, Frazzette was Springfield’s corporate alumni relations chair.

“Springfield has been a family away from home,” Frazzette said. “Participating in THON, the word ‘family’ is used almost everywhere and rightly so, but Springfield takes it to the next level. Through my involvement, I’ve formed close relationships with fellow members as well as the organization’s three paired Four Diamonds families – families affected by pediatric cancer in different ways.”

This summer, Frazzette is preparing to put his Spanish minor to the test when he travels to Latin America for a five-week in-country study organized by the honors college.

For Frazzette, the language may change but chances are his questions will remain the same.

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Last Updated June 17, 2014