When UW-Eau Claire junior Megan Schleusner decided she wanted to conduct groundbreaking biomedical research, she looked no further than the world-renowned Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., to seek a research job.
Dr. Abhishek Chandra of Mayo Clinic hired Schleusner last spring for a position in his lab, a student position funded by the Mayo Clinic Undergraduate Research Employment Program. UREP is a paid research employee program for currently enrolled college students who have completed at least one year of undergraduate studies.
The focus of Chandra’s lab is the study of age- and disease-related osteoporosis, particularly in postmenopausal women and cancer survivors who have undergone radiation therapy.
“We are studying the mechanisms of these types of bone loss and looking for drug therapies to block those mechanisms,” Chandra said. “Megan has been working on key analysis in seeking these outcomes.”
Schleusner’s resume was on target for this type of work. The biology major with a pre-professional health science minor has been taking advantage of transformational learning opportunities available to her since early high school, and it shows.
“UW-Eau Claire has really set me up for success,” said the Colfax native. “I came in with many more experiences than my peers in this program. I completed an internship in Vietnam last summer, working for two weeks at a busy hospital in Hội An; I have worked in Dr. Lyman-Gingerich’s lab for the last three semesters shadowing senior students working on genetics research. Both she and Dr. Julie Anderson have mentored me in lab skills and research and helped me through the UREP application process. Lastly Dr. Tim Nelson from Mayo has made many visits to campus and provided insight into all the opportunities Mayo has to offer.”
Chandra has worked with undergraduates before through the Mayo UREP program and sees huge benefits for both the clinic and the students in this relationship.
“The long-term interest of the clinic gets the benefit of training these research students for futures in graduate school, many of whom remain at Mayo in our M.D. or M.D./Ph.D. programs,” he said. “And for the students, they are able to co-author published research, and I can have them back a second time to continue where that research left off, producing another publication. For all students planning on graduate school, more publications are always a good thing.”
Another learning outcome that Schleusner sees in the UREP program has been the chance to live the life of a medical researcher for the summer.
“Working alongside these professionals every day has been such a valuable experience,” she said. “I’ve been able to picture myself in this field, doing the work that they’re doing every day. It has been the most helpful outcome overall. I truly wanted to see what my future could look like, what kind of work-life balance I might have. That’s not something that students can often get to see.”