Why was the KU School of Engineering the right choice for you?
Right off the bat, it was clear to me that the KU School of Engineering was the right choice. During my undergraduate experience, my school's Biomedical Engineering curriculum was very predetermined, and there wasn't much room pursue academic interests that were more relevant to my future goals. One of my favorite parts about the Bioengineering program here at KU is the fact that the majority of the curriculum is determined by me as the student. Here, I'm able to choose from a seemingly endless array of listings to enroll in the courses that will best prepare me for my future career.
What are you currently researching?
I am tremendously blessed and excited to be in the lab of Dr. Cory Berkland here at KU. In Dr. Berkland's lab, I am working on the thrilling topic area of "Antigen-Specific Immunotherapies" for applications in Autoimmune Disease. Currently, standard of care treatments for Autoimmune Disease are inadequate in that they largely treat disease symptoms without addressing the root immunological causes at play. The work in Dr. Berkland's lab is aimed at codelivering an antigen that the body's autoreactive immune cells will recognize and react to as well as a secondary context signal with the purpose of shifting the attitudes of these overactive cells toward tolerance. The end goal is essentially to "reprogram" the immune system for the amelioration of autoimmune characteristics.
What do you want to do after graduation?
After graduation, I would love nothing more than to get involved with the rapidly growing biotechnology industry. Pursuing employment in the industry is something that is very important to me because I want to be part of something that leads to real treatments being developed for real patients in need. The biotechnology industry is an exceptionally promising place to accomplish this goal because this industry is the arena where application of the "cutting edge" is extremely evident. It's here that we see inexplicably amazing treatments emerging that totally revolutionize the lives of people who were previously hopeless.
What is your favorite thing on campus or in Lawrence that a prospective student should check out?
A typical day in class or the lab may have you wracking your brain or leave you mentally exhausted, and it's important to unwind! One of my favorite ways to stay well is to do something active. KU has a wonderful Recreational Center where there is a plethora of strength training and cardio equipment available as well as sporting courts and fields. In the city of Lawrence, Clinton Lake is a great opportunity to get outside and moving. Aside from its beautiful scenery, the lake has 13 miles of trails surrounding it and an awesome beach area to lay out or enjoy the water.
What advice do you have for prospective graduate students?
My number-one advice for prospective graduate students is that it's never too early to get started on thinking, planning and acting toward graduate school! Thinking back to my time as a prospective student, I didn't even fully realize graduate school as a viable option until close to the end of my undergraduate career. This led to a scramble to learn more about the options available, take the GRE and get applications out in time! The earlier you get started on these essentials, the better off you'll be! By starting early, you can comprehensively investigate the programs, funding and research going on at different institutions. By understanding what you're looking for in each of these areas, you will also have ample time to build your resume by seeking grad school-relevant experiences (such as undergraduate research), and you can also get plentiful preparation in for the standardized tests schools may require.