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Class Act: Thinking big

For Ron Crandall, the study of genetics is personal. He wants to learn more about what causes cancer, a disease that has plagued many members of his family.

“In high school I started looking for treatments and to help get them into clinical trials,” says Crandall. “And from there I started to take some genetics classes and found I really liked it.”

Crandall is committed to that investigation for the long haul and wants to earn a dual MD/PhD degree in medical genetics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. “I hope it will prepare me to go out into the community and make a difference, not just in treating people who have cancer but other genetics-related diseases,” says Crandall, whose academic honors include a WALSAA Outstanding Sophomore Award and the Wallace Award for Genetics.

Crandall’s desire to serve takes him out of the lab and into the worlds of communication and campus leadership. In elementary school he began teaching himself computer programming and web design, drawn mostly by the challenge, he says, of finding easy-to-understand ways to convey complex information. He now heads his own web development and design business, SSII Designs, and also works as the website administrator for the Department of Genetics.

When he’s not studying or working, Crandall engages in student activities. He is a CALS Ambassador, charged with offering prospective students a peer’s view of CALS. He’s also president of the CALS student council and last semester was elected to the student services finance committee of the Associated Students of Madison (UW–Madison student government). There he plans to focus on a “metacouncil” initiative to create a much-needed representative body for all the student councils on campus, he says. Another project: to create a software enhancement to make DARS, the Degree Audit Reporting System students use to track requirements, easier to understand and implement.

One can’t accuse Crandall of not thinking big. The mystery is how he finds time for it. “A lot of sleepless nights,” he laughs. “I have this interesting schedule of doing 20-hour days. I’ll stay up until 4 a.m. or so, get a few hours’ sleep and then continue. And then on weekends I have huge naps.”