From Denmark to Davis

Scholarship recipient Lena Svanholm ’21, M.S. ’23, Ph.D. ’26

By Clémentine Sicard | October 16, 2023

Meet Women’s Basketball forward Lena Svanholm ’21, M.S. ’23, Ph.D. ’26, originally from Hoersholm, Denmark, whose college journey has been supported by donor-funded scholarships and awards. In fall 2023 she started her Ph.D. in chemistry and chemical biology, becoming the only known active NCAA Division I women’s basketball student-athlete to be enrolled in such a program.

Lena Svanholm shooting a basketball towards the hoop with opposing team member playing defense
Lena Svanholm on the basketball court.

How many languages do you speak?

Three: Danish, German and English.

What is it like to be an international student at UC Davis?

I came to the U.S. by myself when I was 18 to play college basketball. I come from a small country and it was a big transition speaking a new language and living in a different culture, but I found a support system with my teammates, coaches and academic advisors. There were a lot of people willing to help me out and help me navigate the challenges that I faced.

Why are you studying chemistry?

I really like the prob­lem-solving and critical thinking skills that are needed in chemistry and I want to apply them in the world.

What has been your experience on the women’s basket­ball team?

My experience here has been a unique and very positive one. In the recruiting process, I connected with the basketball team and coaching staff, especially Coach Jennifer Gross. They have managed to create a positive and healthy environment where we can all work well together.

How does your scholarship support you?

Without scholar­ships that have helped pay for my academics I simply would not be here, about to enter my fifth year at UC Davis. They have made this whole adventure possible, from living in a new country, meeting new people and getting out of my comfort zone to being at a school that challenges me academically and athletically.