Scientifically gifted, agile and charmingly quirky, Freja Ekman knows firsthand how it feels to win the genetic lottery. But UC Berkeley’s top graduating senior is also painfully aware of how a single gene mutation can drastically alter the trajectory of one’s life.
As a preteen, she witnessed her oldest brother Felix – who has epilepsy, a hip disease and high-functioning autism – being teased by his high school classmates. Until then, she had thought, perhaps naively, that people would “celebrate his differences, not make fun of them.”
“It made me sad because he thought they were his friends, but they were laughing athim, not with him,” says Ekman, who was born in Germany, but raised mostly in La Jolla, California. “He always assumes the best in people. He’s the best friend you could ever have.”
Ekman, 21, a graduate in chemical biology with a near-perfect GPA of 3.99, is this year’s winner of the coveted University Medal. As UC Berkeley’s top graduating senior, she will receive $2,500 and deliver a speech to thousands of her peers at a campus-wide commencement ceremony at California Memorial Stadium this Saturday, May 12.
Read the full story on Berkeley News.