Alumni Spotlight | June 2016
KU major: B.S. Biology, Genetics, Class of 2005
Current occupation: Board Certified Genetic Counselor, Manager of Medical Science Liaisons at Counsyl, Inc.
Research mentor while at KU: Kathy Suprenant
Describe the undergraduate research experience that you had while at KU: Working in Dr. Suprenant's lab while at KU was both a challenging and rewarding experience. Much of the work I did was spent preparing various solutions and media for research studies, reading journal articles, and looking under a microscope for hours at C. elegans (a tiny roundworm). This work helped the lab contribute to a better understanding of the cytoskeleton during cell division.
Q: What do you think was the most important thing you learned while doing undergraduate research?
A: Reading and Doing are very different skills, and the marriage of the two through undergraduate research is unique. Having the opportunity to work with the bright minds in Dr. Suprenant's lab was invaluable to my own professional development as I learned the critical thinking skills necessary to become focused and able to complete my graduate school training and, later, pass my board exams!
Q: What advice do you have for undergraduates who might be interested in doing research?
A: Try it now. The many research opportunities and experiences you can have at KU are incredible. Even if you don't fall in love with the research you do as an undergrad, the experience is invaluable and something you'll be able to build upon whatever career you end up in!
Q: Do you use any of the skills or perspectives gained doing research in your current occupation? How so?
A: Constantly, I'm using the scientific knowledge I learned while at KU in my day-to-day dealings with medical providers and patients who are trying to understand complex genetic testing. I wouldn't have had the foundation upon which to become a genetic counselor without the dedication and time spent pouring over research notes and reading scientific journal articles while doing undergraduate research at KU.
Q: Many undergraduate researchers are making decisions about what to do after they graduate from KU. Having been in those shoes, what do you know now that you wish you’d known then? Do you have any advice?
A: Stay in school [beyond undergrad]. Although it's a cliché, the marketplace is getting more and more competitive. I manage a team of Medical Science Liaisons (board certified genetic counselors) across the country. These individuals all did varying degrees of undergraduate/graduate level research in order to prepare them for the post-college degrees they would need in order to become highly sought after and competitive. In my current role, I also continue to sit on thesis committees and submit research to peer-reviewed journals (some of which have been accepted)! The learning never stops, and the more skills and habits you develop as an undergrad will transcend "school" and make you a much more competitive employee in the "real world".