Alumni Spotlight | Summer 2017
KU major: Human Biology class of 2007
Current occupation: Medical Instructor at Duke University School of Medicine and Director of viral genetic analysis at the Duke Human Vaccine Institute
Research mentor while at KU: Dean Stetler
Describe the undergraduate research experience that you had while at KU:
A: I had the opportunity to work on a variety of research projects in Dr. Dean Stetler’s laboratory related to the autoimmune disease lupus. During my time spent in his laboratory, I learned a wide range of biochemical and immunological assays as well as experience working with animal models of lupus.
Q: What do you think was the most important thing you learned while doing undergraduate research?
A: I worked alongside many other undergraduate and graduate students also doing research and very quickly realized the power of collaboration. I experienced that what we could accomplish as a team was far greater than by individual efforts alone. Plus, it was a lot more fun that way.
Q: What advice do you have for undergraduates who might be interested in doing research or creative scholarship?
A: When I came to KU I was dead-set on becoming a physician and I had no idea that opportunities and careers existed doing research. It wasn’t until I jumped right in and starting working in a lab that I realized how passionate and fascinating research was. My advice would be to expose yourself to as many diverse research areas as possible now, because you never know where your true passion will lie.
Q: Do you use any of the skills or perspectives gained doing research in your current occupation? How so?
A: While doing undergraduate research I realized that a career doing biomedical research was what I wanted to do. After graduation, I pursed a Ph.D. and am now a faculty member at Duke University. At Duke, I’m part of a consortium of scientists trying to develop an HIV vaccine and I use the collaborative skills, perseverance and scientific knowledge that I learned as an undergraduate researcher every day.
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: When graduation approaches we put immense pressure on ourselves to immediately find what we love to do and go do it or take the logical next step. My advice would be take your time and not rush because of the sense of urgency, but find experiences that will enrich you and expand your toolkit. Taking an untrodden path will allow you to bring a unique perspective to your work and prime you for finding your career niche.