Q/A With a Valpo Student – Joe Castleman ’23


Joe Castleman ’23

Joe Castleman ’23, a senior chemistry and psychology major on the pre-med track, spent his summer on-campus working to better the world around him. A member of Christ College — The Honors College, Joe is working with Professor Julie Peller, Ph.D., on identifying and breaking down microplastics being found more and more in the environment. This is his second summer working on the project as a student researcher.

A native of St. Louis, Missouri, with family ties to the Valparaiso community, Joe’s passions include understanding how the brain works, intramural sports, and cheering on Valpo athletes at the ARC.

Inside the College

What brought you to Valpo?

I’m from St. Louis, Missouri, but my parents met at Valparaiso High School, so I’ve always been familiar with the area. I chose the University after a visit with Christ College — The Honors College. I fell in love with that program. I also liked the small size, that it was Division I athletics, so everything just clicked for me.

What got you interested in studying chemistry and psychology?

I’m a premed student, so I knew I’d have to take a lot of chemistry classes. Beyond that, I’m really interested in the brain, neuroscience, and chemistry of human behavior. It’s always been an interest of mine. I took a neuropsychology class this past semester, and it was really interesting to learn about concussions and seizures and different brain disorders. That really piqued my interest.

What project have you been working on over the summer?

It’s environmental chemistry work on microplastics, focusing on how they break down and how they react in the environment. It’s my second summer working on the project with Professor Julie Peller with the chemistry department.

What other organizations are you a part of?

I’m in Sigma Phi Epsilon, and that’s been a really great experience for me. I’ve made a lot of friends and I’ve gotten involved in more campus activities. I serve the fraternity as our mental health coordinator and as the scholarship chair.

What is your favorite memory at Valpo?

I’ve had a great past three years here at Valpo. I definitely love all the athletic events, so the volleyball team this past year went to the NIVC finals and I was at all of those games. The experience was just electric at the ARC, and a really fun experience for me.

Outside the College

Outside of Valpo, what interests do you have?

Intramural sports. I do it at Valpo, too, but I grew up playing tennis. I do less of that now, but I love spikeball, disc golf, sand volleyball, and all those kinds of things. I also play card games.

What are your favorite spots around Valparaiso?

I love the city square on Lincolnway. Radius and Ricochet are two of my favorite restaurants. There’s been live concerts there and movies every other week, so it’s just been a lot of fun hanging out in the town. Valpo impresses me so much. Coming from St. Louis I was expecting just a small town, but it’s been everything I’d ever need.

I understand that you got to study abroad recently. What was that experience like?

I went with Christ College on a two-week trip to Italy right over Christmas. It was terrific. We stayed in Orvietto in Central Italy studying what the good life looked like as a medieval Christian, reading Thomas Aquinas and Dante. We actually stayed in an area that Aquinas lived in and wrote some of his teaching. We were also going to look at art, architecture, churches, and trying to immerse ourselves in that life.

What are you favorite sports teams?

As a St. Louis native I have to say the Cardinals are my baseball team. We don’t have a football team anymore, so I’m definitely a Chicago Bears fan now. I probably like college sports more than professional sports right now.