Claire Radtke dribbling

Claire Radtke – Soo Builders Building Champions

Over the past two plus seasons, Claire Radtke has been one of the most noticeable players on the Lake Superior State women’s basketball team. Having started every game of her Laker career, the point guard has been a bright spot on the squad since lacing up her shoes in 2016.

But like all student-athletes, there is more to the story than what is seen in games.

Majoring in both environmental science and biochemistry keeps her busy in the classroom, the laboratory and on the basketball court.

“I was able to play basketball, but there was also a really good environmental science program that I wanted to do, so that kind of drew me in,” said Radtke, on why she elected to attend Lake Superior State. “I was able to study while playing basketball.”

Originally majoring in environmental science, the native of New Berlin, Wisconsin, added biochemistry as a second major at the beginning of her sophomore year. As a result, balancing the heavy workload with the team commitment becomes somewhat of a challenge.

“I usually try to be at the library as much as I can,” said Radtke. “I think basketball helps me structure and build habits to study, because if I didn’t have basketball, I might procrastinate more, but if I know I am going to be gone for a road trip, it is good to have that structure.”

“It keeps you disciplined,” she added, “because you have to be good at time management. There is no choice but to be good at it.”

Growing up, Radtke always had a fascination with the sciences. An Advanced Placement class on environmental science in high school helped her decide on her college major.

“That settled it for me, that I wanted to study environmental science,” she said.

The inspiration to also major in biochemistry did not come about until Radtke was already enrolled at Lake State.

“My freshman year, I had Dr. Steven Johnson for general chemistry and he talked about biochemistry a lot,” Radtke said. “I had also taken AP Biology in high school and really liked the molecular biology aspect, so when Dr. Johnson talked about biochemistry, it made me think about it more – to the point I told myself that I wanted to go for it. I have been a double major since last year.”

While double maClaire Radtke laughingjoring can be daunting, Radtke is fortunate that her majors have many overlapping classes. Still, completing both degrees in four years is proving to be a challenge.

“I concentrate on chemistry in my environmental science major, so that helps with some of the classes I have got to take, but I am still squeaking by on trying to do it in four years,” she said. “I am planning on graduating in four years, but I will really have to load up on my credits in the next few semesters.”

The double major has afforded Radtke a unique research opportunity. Under the guidance of Dr. Johnson, she and fellow Lake State student Caitlin Wilson are researching microbial phytases, an enzyme that breaks down phytic acid. “That is what cattle do when they eat,” remarked Radtke, “as there is a lot of phosphorus in plants and it helps to break down phosphorus so it doesn’t run into water systems.”

The project, entitled “Cloning, Expression and Characterization of Microbial Phytases,” utilizes biochemistry to engineer enzymes aimed at reducing phosphate loading in soils. One of the aims is to bioengineer plasmids (genetic structures in cells that can replicate independently of chromosomes) into E. coli to express a protein. Faster and cheaper ways to create a coating around feed for livestock is what Radtke and Wilson are hoping to discover.

“The research is aimed at non-ruminants such as swine, poultry and fish,” said Dr. Johnson. “These animals lack sufficient amounts of the enzyme phytase, which is responsible for the degradation of phytic acid…the addition of heterogeneously expressed microbial phytic acid during the pelleting process will hydrolyze phytic acid for the livestock.”

Dr. Johnson spoke very highly of the two, praising them for their talent and self-motivation, saying he has “been very fortunate to have Claire and Caitlin working in my research lab since last year…despite incredibly busy schedules, they have moved the project substantially forward and are poised to yield major results next semester. Both are students capable of moving on to graduate school to pursue advanced degrees.”

Like her interest in science, her love of basketball also began at an early age. Her father, who played college hoops at Wisconsin — Stevens Point, got her into the sport.

“My family, minus my Mom, is a big sports family,” said Radtke. “I have three older sisters who all played basketball. One played in college (Lake Forest College), as did my Dad, but I have been playing ever since my Dad got me signed up. I initially told everybody in my family that I was a non-sporty girl, but I fell in love with basketball and have been playing ever since.”

Since coming to Lake Superior State, Radtke has started in every game she has played for the Lakers. She averaged nearly 30 minutes in her first two seasons. In addition, her 7.0 points per game in 2017-18 was good for third best among returnees, behind Lexie Khon and Abigail Ostman.

As of Feb. 12, Radtke was averaging 7.1 points and 4.2 rebounds per game in 22 games played. Earlier this season, Radtke earned the first GLIAC North Division Player of the Week honor of her career. She earned the honor after scoring 15 points versus Ohio Valley on Nov. 15 and 16 points against Alderson Broaddus on Nov. 17 — both Laker victories.

“At the beginning of this year was the first time we have swept on the road [since I have been here] with two road wins,” said Radtke. “That was exciting because we were gone the entire month of November on road trips. It is really tough to play on the road that much, but I think that really stands out and shows that we’ve really grown a lot as a team.”

While there is much work ahead in continuing to build the women’s basketball program, which has not seen a winning season since 2010-11, Radtke has spoken highly of the coaching staff and the effort her teammates are putting into righting the ship.

“The coaching staff we have now is really great,” she said. “I think coaches Lokken, Holt and Parker are really buying into our program and it shows. You can tell they all put a lot of work into it and I think it helps everyone else put that effort in too, because when you see somebody’s buying into you, you are going to buy into them.”

With Radtke potentially looking at grad school after her time at Lake State is done, she acknowledged how the time in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan has prepared her for what may come, drawing attention to the close interactions she has had with the faculty.

“I am glad I came here. I really think the small school environment helped with the research I have been able to do,” Radtke said. “I feel that if I had gone to a bigger school that I could not have had the same relationships with my professors. Being able to play basketball while attending school gives you a platform to succeed, and I think going to a small school allows you to fully utilize that.”

Laker Spotlight is brought to you by Soo Builders, proud partner of Laker Athletics.

About the Author

Mike Barrett

Mike Barrett is a frequent contributor to He is a 2017 graduate of Lake Superior State University with a B.S. in Mathematics, as well as a 2011 graduate of North Central Michigan College, from whom he holds an A.S. In the past, he has contributed to the Sault Evening News, the LSSU Compass and U.S. College Hockey When not writing, Mike can be found working as a math tutor at Bay Mills Community College in Brimley, Michigan.

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