Hometown: Lake Zurich, Illinois
Undergraduate school: University of Illinois – Urbana/Champaign, 2003
Degree/field of study: B.S. Chemistry, B.S. Microbiology
"In college, my best friend was diagnosed with a rare-variant of testicular cancer. From that experience, not knowing the cause behind his disease was what propelled me into research. I wanted to understand the process underlying cancer. Originally, I wanted to understand how and why the cancer cells escaped the host immune system. Following my first rotation, as well as after talking to faculty members and my peers, I realized that I wanted to pursue something completely different. Instead of discouragement, I received support from faculties to follow my interest. With that I ended up researching adrenal cortex development and carcinogenesis with Dr. Gary Hammer.
"I am very involved with our research team. Soon after joining the lab, Gary and I began investigating a developmental pathway called the Wnt Signaling pathway. As my research expanded, the focus of the lab shifted to developmental biology. Now we even have a group within our research team nicknamed the 'developmental signaling division.' Because of this expansion, I have been able to help write grants, aid other students in setting up their research systems, and mentor undergraduate students.
"I have been very fortunate here at University of Michigan. I have presented at various prestigious meetings such as the Society for Developmental Biology, the Endocrine Society, the International Adrenal Cancer Symposium, and the Keystone Conference. Faculty have always been very supportive and encouraging throughout my graduate career. Whether I had questions about particular experiments, organizing symposiums, or just general questions, they were very welcoming and took time off their busy schedules to answer my questions—I am very thankful for such relationships."I think previous research experience is the key factor in being prepared for the PIBS year and pursuing a graduate degree at Michigan. Thesis research is extremely difficult and I believe 99.9% of the student population would agree with me. To get through it, one needs passion and love for the career they choose."