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CELL Honored Graduate: Jacob Wengler’s Slam Dunk Undergraduate Experience

Jacob Wengler sits at a chair (right) smiling in a dark blue polo shirt, light skin, brown hair. To the left is a computer, microscope and other equipment.
Photo by Tanner Frost

It’s halftime, but for Jacob Wengler (CELL ’24) it’s game time. Flying through the air, he flips and dunks the ball—the crowd goes wild. Wengler doesn’t just slam dunk on the court as a member of BYU’s Dunk Team, he’s also slam dunked on the academic court as a premed student studying cellular biology.

Wengler loved physics, but after serving his mission in Brazil, he knew he wanted to do something to serve others more directly and personally. By studying biophysics, he was able to apply his love for physics while learning how the human body works. This major helped him prepare to pursue medical school. It is clear that Wengler’s hard work and training in biophysics paid off since he scored in the 100th percentile for the MCAT.

An aerial shot of Jacob looking through a microscope, wearing black gloves.
Photo by Tanner Frost

Wengler has always had his sights set on BYU and looked forward to attending since his youth. “I only applied to one college,” says Wengler. “I didn’t really consider going anywhere else.” Wengler has been deeply impressed by his professors at BYU—women and men with great knowledge who also have great faith. “I can’t imagine any other university offering me this,” he says.

As a freshman, Wengler was eager to dive into research in a laboratory setting and reached out to several faculty members in search of an available position. Despite having no background, prior knowledge, or experience, Dr. Dario Mizrachi was willing to give Wengler a chance to join the lab. Wengler attributes this opportunity to his willingness to take the initiative: “It’s easy to be silent [and think] ‘I don’t have opportunities to do this, or I don’t have enough friends.’” Wengler advises other students to reach out to others and be proactive.

It can be difficult to balance life as a college student. Wengler found that taking time away from schoolwork is an important way to stay healthy and recharge. For him, the perfect outlet was the BYU Dunk Team. “It’s the closest I can get to flying,” he quips. Wengler says that his experience on the dunk team has allowed him to develop leadership skills, stay active and healthy, be creative, make friendships, and serve in the community.

The dunk team participates in an initiative called Cougar Built. As part of the initiative, Wengler has visited many local schools to teach health principles and perform. Not yet a physician, Wengler has already been hard at work improving others’ health.

Jacob Wengler is midair above a basketball hoop, basketball in one hand, red and black plaid pants and white BYU shirt. The Y is seen on the ceiling of the stadium and some other parts of the Marriott Center stadium.
Photo by BYU Dunk Team

Wengler’s advice to new (and really all) students is to “know your priorities and stick to them.” With a wife and newborn baby, Wengler has tried to practice what he preaches. While considering medical schools, Wengler put family priorities first rather than “checking all the boxes” like some schools expect. He will be attending a medical school this fall.