Scott MacGuidwin’s (C, W '19) cat, Luna, wakes him up in the mornings by licking his face. During the day, Luna roams the halls of Scott’s fraternity house, Sigma Nu. At night, she sleeps in his room.
He tells me that perhaps the only negative about Luna is that she catches mice in house. But Luna doesn’t kill the mice. She brings them to Scott “as presents.”
“Which is always a little startling when you’re doing homework and you’re like, ‘what’s in your mouth?’”
He pours me a cup of loose leaf tea that he brewed in a French press in the Life Sciences & Management (LSM) lounge. The lounge, located on the first floor of the Stephen A. Levin Building, is where he spends much of his time, since a lot of his friends work there. The tall windows make for good lighting and the free coffee isn’t bad.
“It’s just a roommate. What’s not to love?” Scott continues. I ask if he’s a cat person. “Very much so.” He tells me to wait while he finds a “particularly cute picture” of Luna on his Android.
Scott is from Williamston, Mich., located around ten miles from Michigan State’s campus. He’s a student in LSM, a coordinated dual degree program that enrolls around 25 students each year. In May, he will receive a Bachelor of Arts in computational biology from the College, as well as a Bachelor of Science in economics with a concentration in finance from Wharton.
Perhaps the most unique aspect about LSM is the Capstone project, Scott says, where seniors in the program gather into teams of five, take a biotech product, and build a company with it.
He and his team—who are working with a gene therapy product that would halt certain forms of frontotemporal dementia—are responsible for everything, ranging from designing preclinical and human trials to coming up with safety guidelines and investment strategies. The project culminates in a final presentation delivered to leaders of the biotech and medical industries.
As a senior in high school, Scott fell in love with the LSM program and its combination of biology and business. His appreciation of the program has grown since freshman year, when he would fall asleep in class or check Facebook on his laptop when guest speakers talked to his proseminar class. Now, he realizes how “crazy” and “amazing” it is to have such prominent speakers present regularly.
Scott walks with a bounce in his step. It’s Sunday afternoon, and he’s going to a meeting in a Huntsman GSR for Wharton Passion Projects, an initiative that provides $300 grants to students each year to “basically pursue anything you find interesting.” A few months ago, Scott and a friend from LSM received the grant to fund a project on fountain pens.
Writing is “a lost art, especially writing letters to people, to friends, and to professors who meant something to you,” he says. After receiving the grant, Scott and his friend held an event in Huntsman, where people wrote letters to those who were important to them.
He shows me their new “hype video,” which features numerous fountain pens, professional cinematography and transitions, and also a special appearance by Luna, the cat. He then suggests that I follow their instagram account: @pensatPenn. He pulls out multiple fountain pens from his backpack and hands me a black pen and a notepad. I’ve never written with one before, so I tell him that the pen is surprisingly smooth on paper. “Right?” he says proudly.
Scott’s parents have a flower business. He refers to it as his mom’s “own passion project.” Since their property in Michigan is pretty large and his mom has bad knees, his family owns a golf cart to get around and take care of their plants and flowers. Once, Scott’s parents were out of town, and he drove the golf cart around their house with his cousin.
“So we have these large fences to prevent the deer from coming in and eating all the flowers, so of course, I crashed into it with the golf cart. It all fell down,” he says. When his parents came home, he did the, “responsible thing and told them it was probably a deer.”
I ask him if they ever found out what actually happened. “Well, they might when this comes out.” He laughs. “I never did tell them. I'm sure they knew. They had to know.”
Scott is the only one among his four other siblings to not attend the University of Michigan. He’s the youngest in the family. The next youngest sibling is seven years older than him, and two years separate all the others.
In fact, his brother’s wife just gave birth a few weeks ago. Scott tells me that at least one of his siblings has been pregnant constantly for the last four or five years. “As soon as one gives birth, another one gets pregnant,” he says. “If I visited every time they had a kid, I’d never be here.”
Scott grew up in rural Michigan with his family of seven. He participated in Quiz Bowl in high school, and became captain of the team in his senior year. All of his friends were in it and he grew to love the “rush of being in the competition.”
When it came time to apply for college, he knew he wanted to go to a city. Coming to Philadelphia after living in the Midwest for his whole life, he realized that the two regions are “worlds apart.” In the Midwest, people smile at those they don’t know walking down the street and spark up conversations with people in stores. In Philadelphia, it’s different. “Not that that’s worse or better per se, but it’s just very different.”
Scott adopted Luna, a domestic short–hair, last August, when he confirmed that he’d be moving to New York after graduation to work in biotech investment banking at Houlihan Lokey. He decided to get a cat since he knew he could find an apartment in the city that allows pets.
Moving to New York isn’t too scary, Scott says, since, “everyone goes to New York,” and he’ll probably be living with two of his LSM friends. He mentions how when he interned in the city at Houlihan Lokey last summer, he found himself recognizing Penn people in stores and bars. “You might not know their name but you’ve definitely seen that person on Locust. It’s like Penn part two, honestly. I love it.”
The hustle of the city seems fitting for Scott, who enjoys “having a packed schedule, knowing what [he is] going to do on any given day, and compartmentalizing [his] day.” He likes to plan events among his various social groups—the friends he goes to EDM concerts with, his LSM friends, his fraternity brothers, friends from his freshman hall, and even a few people from New Student Orientation.
He tells me that his best memories at Penn haven’t been in the classroom. They’ve been in the LSM lounge, where he sees his friends everyday and they write with fountain pens. They’ve been on Sansom Street, where he goes to White Dog for happy hour even though it’s too crowded. They’ve been in his fraternity house, where he cooks egg noodles and caramelized onions, has photoshoots with his cat, and gets eight hours of sleep every night. These eight hours, “definitely contribute to my overall positive outlook at Penn.”
Coming to Penn, Scott says he expected to be a lot smarter than he, “actually turned out to be … In my first week, I was really full of myself, like I'm hot shit. Look at me, I'm Scott.” Since then, he says he’s learned not to compare himself with others—especially academically. “Everyone’s just so different.”