Lukas Voigts, Marshall, WI

Lukas, an 18-year-old high school senior from Marshall, Wisconsin, hopes to major in Biochemistry or Genetics at the University of Madison, Wisconsin, where he’ll enroll this coming fall. One of the reasons Lukas applied for the scholarship, he said, was to prove that “people with PKU have great opportunities to attend post-secondary education” and that he is “living proof that the research and implementation of newborn screening have provided them great opportunities to flourish.”

Lukas maintained a nearly 4.0 unweighted grade level throughout high school while taking 7 AP courses. He was awarded the AP Scholar award from the College Board and is ranked 4th in his graduating class. The desire to help others through science drives Lukas’ academic pursuits; he says he’d like to be a biochemical engineer or geneticist so he can help research alternative treatments or potential cures for PKU or other disorders like Cystic Fibrosis.

A track-and-field runner all four years of high school, Lukas says that running the 100m, 200m and relay race has encouraged him to both work hard at his own goals and rally his team members to do their best.  Lukas plays the alto saxophone and is a section leader and the drum major for the school’s marching band. He’s a state-level Solo and Ensemble performer and been able to play as part of many different groups with different instruments, styles, and configurations.

A member of the student council and his school’s leadership club, Lukas has shown a commitment to service through charity drives and his work with the National Honor Society; he has also volunteered a the local library and blood drives, and was selected by his school to attend Badger Boys State, a week-long government simulation program for students who have shown leadership skills and academic merit.

Lukas uses the Simplified Diet to track his protein intake and enjoys low protein pizza, vegetable stir fry, and many fruits. He divides his protein allowance evenly throughout the day and drinks his formula four times a day, which, he says, he has no trouble remembering, “as I know it is essential to my development and quality of life.”

Of Lukas, one of his teachers says, “his level of understanding, positive attitude, and tremendous work ethic made him stand out so much that as a sophomore he was awarded Science Student of the Year.” She was also impressed at Lukas’ ability to  use his PKU diagnosis to explain genetic concepts to his classmates and add a personal touch to the presentation.

While he struggled to understand the limits imposed by PKU when he was younger, Lukas says that now when people tell him they’re sorry about his diet, he tells them not to worry, and that he’s grateful to have the diet. He is very thankful for the support of his family and his PKU clinic, and grateful too that PKU has given him direction in choosing a future career: “PKU is not a burden. PKU is a blessing that I am glad to have.”