Duke University | Baldwin Scholars Program

Julia Chapman


Julia Chapman

“Dime con quien andas, y te diré quien eres,” Tell me with whom you walk, and I will tell you who you are.

One of my life theories is that if you have to tell someone that you are something, then you obviously aren’t. So rather than tell you who I am, allow me to tell you who I walk with, where I walk, and how I walk. My name is Julia Chapman. I am a southern girl and can’t imagine living anywhere that sees snow, ever. Actually, I hope to one day live in Costa Rica. I was born in Lexington, Kentucky (GO WILDCATS!), but my family currently lives in Spartanburg, South Carolina. I study Biomedical Engineering and Chemistry, and one day I will be a pediatric oncologist.

My younger sister is my biggest hero (I can no longer refer to her as my “little” sister because she towers eight inches over my head). I admire her self-confidence, her passion for all of God’s creatures (including frogs), her selflessness in team settings, and her unwavering decisiveness to do the right thing, just because it is the right thing. I am so proud each time I hear about her newest accomplishment, although she is too humble to ever tell me, herself. My parents are my best friends and biggest fans. From my dark colorings to my short stature to my big white teeth, I am a physical replica of my petite, half-Japanese/half-Mexican mother, who I talk to each morning when I wake up and in between every class during the day via cell phone. She sends me weekly care packages with clothing, jewelry, Japanese food, and notes of encouragement, and she recognized each of my friends by face and name the first time that she had actually met or seen any of them. My dad exists in some manner in almost every one of my childhood memories—from the times that we went fishing off the pier in Destin, Florida, when he had to hold me so that the blowfish that I had hooked didn’t catch me, to the numerous hospital visits where he introduced me to diseases and grafts and medicines, to the hours he spent going over math homework with me—and the hours that I pretended not to understand just so that he would go over the problem with me again, to the historic car trips to soccer games and swim meets during which I learned the name and life stories of every Civil War general and every U.S. politician, to the ice cream/movie dates we used to take and my feigned love of every movie we saw (even though I really never liked the Lion King). I remember the silent pride that dripped from his eyes when I received my first college acceptance letter to MIT and the stern words of solace that he provided when I cried because I had received my first B. I re-read the 60-something emails that my Army Colonel daddy had sent me since I first came to Duke, which begin with “Good to hear from you. I thought about you almost every minute yesterday. Today it has been every 5 minutes so I must be getting better...” My family at Duke includes Mrs. Helen who bakes me honeybun cakes and proudly tells me stories about her baby girls while she cleans the bathrooms in our dorm every morning, Robert and Bradley who work in the Marketplace and play jokes on me every night at dinner, Dean Connie Simmons who organizes my life for me, my engineering classmates, the Cameron Crazies, the Benjamin N. Duke Scholars, my Pi Beta Phi sorority sisters, the Catholic community, Mi Gente, my fellow Alspaugh hallmates, my intramural sports teams (the J-Crew and the No-Ballers), and of course the Baldwin Scholars. We spend countless hours slaving over Matlab (code) and solving the puzzles of physics and calculus, wait in line for basketball games and sit together at lax and soccer games; we cook dinner together and bake cookies in the Alspaugh kitchen; we attend mass together and organize social events together; we fundraise for charity, sponsor Durham first-generation college students, tutor Spanish-speaking children at EK Powe Elementary, mentor Durham high school students, have (Latin) dance parties, enjoy picnics on the lawn, and do homework in the gardens—always with a handful of bin candy nearby and the sounds of music and laughter in the background. Through the Baldwin Scholars Program, I have learned valuable skills in negotiating, public speaking, and interviewing and have met with several Duke alumni and women leaders and dined with Broadway Producer and Duke Alum Dani Davis. I attended a conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, where I met with Hurricane Katrina survivors and learned about the politics and economics surrounding the disaster; discussed the AIDS epidemic with South African artists; and spoke with Azadabeh Tadazabeh who is leading research on global warming.

The Baldwin Program allowed me entrance into the Collegiate Athlete Pre-Medical Experience Program, an intensive shadowing program with weekly clinic hours, where I take patient histories, shadow a physician in a field of my choice, will have a summer internship with a physician in the Duke Medical Center, and meet with physicians and other students to discuss medical literature over dinner. Most importantly, the Baldwin Program has provided me with a support network of fifty-six incredible women (including Colleen and Donna) whose mere presence inspires me to rock the world and has introduced me to seventeen of my best friends.

I could only hope that I might be associated with my fellow Baldwins and feel truly honored to part of such an amazing group of young women. The Baldwin Program has definitely been the highlight of my Duke experience and as social chair, I have excitedly already begun planning events for next year. This year at Duke, I also studied genetics through the Genome Revolution FOCUS program, conducted temporomandibular joint research in Clemson’s bioengineering labs under the advisory of Drs. Marine LaBerge and Hai Yao, presented my work in Charleston, South Carolina, and New Orleans, Louisiana, and shadowed Dr. Kurtzburg in the bone marrow transplant center in Duke’s Children’s Hospital. This summer I plan to work at the Howell Center in Greenville, North Carolina, where I will plan recreational activities that will serve as physical and speech therapy for disabled and handicapped children. I also plan to volunteer at a free health clinic for migrant laborers in Greenville.