A&S Class of ’24: Wakako Endo Found Her Community at Shea House

Wakako Endo

Originally an anthropology major with an interest in how humans think about the world, Wakako Endo discovered her love for biology after taking a few courses in the discipline.  This spring, she graduates with a bachelor’s in biology and a minor in Japanese.

In her second year, Endo began working in the School of Medicine’s DeSimone Lab in its Cell Biology Department.  Like many undergraduates looking for a head start in a competitive post-graduate environment, the opportunity to do research before grad school is becoming increasingly important.  But Endo also loved the experience, and it earned her one of the University’s prestigious Double Hoo awards, which funds an original research collaboration between an undergraduate and grad-student pair.

After Final Exercises, she heads to Bethesda, Maryland, to start a two-year post-baccalaurate research position at the National Institutes of Health where she’ll participate in research focused on cells movement and metabolism.  After that, she’ll apply to medical school.  Her long-term goal is to become a pediatrician.  After working with younger kids in high school, she feels that’s where she can do the most good.

At home Endo and her family speak Japanese, and she felt that having a second language would be an asset in a medical career, but her reading and writing skills weren’t where she wanted them to be.  A minor in Japanese has given her a chance to improve those skills, but it also introduced her to a tight-knit community of scholars who shared her interests, and for her fourth year, Endo became a resident of Shea House, which offers UVA students the opportunity to spend a year in a language-immersion environment, an experience that has helped her make stronger connections to the University community and will enhance the impact she’ll make in her career path.

“I am the Language Assistant for the Japanese floor of Shea House, and I really enjoyed planning out weekly events/going to our weekly language dinners and seeing everyone is gaining confidence in speaking Japanese,” Endo said.  “But also, by living in Shea, I've been able to pick up on a lot of different languages like Korean and ASL, and it has definitely solidified my goal of becoming a physician scientist who is able to speak multiple different languages and have different ways to connect with people.”

Before moving to Shea House, Endo spent her first three years as a resident of Hereford Residential College, participating in the Hereford Student Senate and helping plan and manage student events, and the experience has been transformational.

Like many ambitious students, she wasn’t sure she was going to fit in at UVA until she realized that she simply needed to be herself.

“My outlook on life in general has changed,” Endo said.  “As a first-year, grades were so important to me, but now I think I value the connections I’ve made here more than anything else.”


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