Q&A with Garret Waterstradt, AHS ’18

Garret's success with Team USA took him to gymnastic competitions around the world. Now, as a research assistant in the Molecular Muscle Physiology Lab, he is thinking about muscles in a whole new way.
interviewed by Kim Schmidt

How did you decide to come to Illinois and enter the College of Applied Health Sciences?

My mom has worked for the University of Illinois for over 30 years now, so I grew up around the campus. It always seemed like the right place for me to go, and I love being near home and family. I decided to enter the College of Applied Health Sciences because kinesiology is all about the study of body movement and exercise. Being a former world gymnastics competitor, exercise was the focus of my life growing up. Everything felt like a perfect fit in coming here.

Can you tell me a bit about what you do in the Molecular Muscle Physiology Lab led by Professor Marni Boppart?

I work in the Molecular Muscle Physiology laboratory where we study a protein in the body called an integrin, which helps your muscles attach to other parts of the body and keep them in place. I work with a grad student and mostly assist him with his research. This consists of setting up/running experiments and compiling data and analyzing it. I also get to work with mice, which we sometimes use as our test subjects for experiments.

How has being a Stamps Scholar shaped your undergraduate experience?

Being a Stamps Scholar is wonderful, because it provides me with the capabilities and funding to do activities that I may not have been able to do without it. Besides making friends in the program, we also have a biennial convention where Stamps Scholars from every school that participates come together to share knowledge and learn from world leaders in our fields. This has been a great way to make connections. I have also participated in an Outward Bound program where I sailed in Maine for a week with eight other scholars, and did a two week study abroad in Australia to study their health care system and how medicine is delivered to different communities.

What do you hope to do after you graduate?

After I graduate I hope to attend medical school somewhere along the East Coast, hopefully in Boston, New York City, Washington DC, or Maryland. After that I want to work as either a sports medicine surgeon or an orthopedic surgeon. The long-term dream is to one day make a full circle on my gymnastics career and become the team physician for USA Gymnastics.