McKenzie Ely

Fueled by a spirit of curiosity, a love of learning new things, and a passion for science and languages, McKenzie Ely, a senior Spanish Minor and Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology (MCDB) major, has pursued experiences in the fields of translation, phlebotomy, and medical research during her time at U-M. Through leading conversation circles in the English Language Institute (ELI) and tutoring K-12 students as part of U-M student organization End the Cycle, McKenzie has also discovered she enjoys teaching, and is now obtaining her TEFL certification. She is interested in becoming a doctor and plans to apply to medical school in Summer 2024.

Across all of her areas of interest, McKenzie said she sees a common thread of seeking connection with people and using her skills to help others.

Through her work as a phlebotomist at the University Hospital, her role is to draw blood samples from patients, and this work has confirmed her interest in working in the medical field.

“I’ve found this love for patient care,” she said.

McKenzie said her Spanish speaking skills have been helpful in working with patients and their families, and she expects her language skills to continue to be useful in her future career.

“I use my Spanish at the hospital,” she remarked. “Communicating with people in their language is so important to connect with them.”

“One day I’d like there to be as few boundaries as possible in medicine,” McKenzie said.

Another way McKenzie actively has utilized her Spanish language skills was within a translation project she completed as a student in COMPLIT 322: Translating World Literatures: Translation and Migration.

She said the assignment was to translate a work that had never been translated into another language. Through some searching online, she came across a book called Hecho en Berisso Cuentos Sobre Inmigrantes, written by Aníbal Guaraglia, about a community in Argentina called Berisso, which has its roots in Eastern European refugee immigration in the first half of the twentieth century.

“Their culture has become the city’s culture,” she said. “The story and the community they’ve built is really beautiful. I think it is really worth people reading this. It gives voice to migrant stories that we don’t often hear about.”

McKenzie translated the 60-page work from Spanish to English, and learned a lot about the process of translation through this project.

“Translation is not as straightforward as I thought it was,” she remarked. “It’s also a creative writing process in and of itself because you’re keeping the integrity of the words, but there is no way your own voice is not going to be in the work, through your writing style and the way you say things. I enjoy writing myself, so this form of it was very fulfilling for me”

Currently, McKenzie, her COMPLIT 322 professor Graham Liddell, and author Aníbal Guaraglia are exploring avenues for publication of McKenzie’s translation. Additionally, McKenzie hopes to visit Berisso one day, perhaps during the community’s annual three-week festival celebrating their immigrant background.

Another area in which McKenzie has discovered and cultivated an interest is in the field of medical research. She is a part of Dr. Durga Singer’s research team in the field of pediatric endocrinology at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, studying diseases related to childhood obesity, and looking at genetic or inflammatory markers which may play a role.

“I like the science side of healthcare so much, and I enjoy the process of research,” McKenzie remarked.

She highlighted a connection with her phlebotomy work, as the research team she is a part of will be analyzing blood samples this summer.

“I’m excited to complete the circle with that,” she said. “To see where the samples go back to when they are processed, and how it makes a bigger contribution to the study and what results they find.”

As she prepares to graduate from U-M in April, McKenzie is looking forward to continuing to work in Dr. Singer’s lab in the coming year. Before beginning medical school, she hopes to teach abroad and also do some traveling, continuing to improve her Spanish and French language skills along the way. She anticipates continuing to follow where her interests lead her, and making meaningful connections with others along the way.

“I want to make sure nothing’s unexplored,” McKenzie said. “And language can help open a door to that.”