Despite looking all across the country, Elle Anderson found the right graduate program right here at Sanford Research. Having wanted to pursue a career as a researcher and doctor, she found everything she needed to meet her educational, professional and personal goals close to home.
A love of science and research
“I always liked science, but I didn’t consider a career in science until high school. I had a physics teacher that got me interested in both science and going to Augustana University,” Anderson says. “Then, in my first year of undergraduate studies at Augustana University, a professor introduced me to research. From there, I got the idea of pursuing a career that combines both research and medical school.”
After graduating with bachelor’s degrees in biology and chemistry, Anderson took a year off. She knew she would be going back to graduate school, but she really wanted a year to get herself settled before jumping back into a strenuous program. During that time, Anderson began working as a laboratory technician at Sanford Research.
“I had gotten married right out of college and decided to get settled before jumping back in, which was absolutely the right decision for me,” Anderson says. “That year in the laboratory really gave me the experience I needed. I was able to get used to laboratory culture and the techniques used before starting graduate school.”
While working, Anderson continued looking for graduate programs, trying to find the perfect one to meet her goals. She wanted a program that would blend research and medical school, while also offering support and a passion for helping patients.
“I looked at programs all across the country, but honestly, I knew I wanted to complete my degree here. I had already identified mentors at Sanford Research I could work with if I was accepted into the physician scientist program,” explains Anderson. “It’s kind of a blessing to grow up here and then be able to pursue this career path here. I can be with my family.”
A 50/50 split
“My time is spent with one foot in the clinic and one foot in the research space,” Anderson says. “The program does an exceptional job of breaking up the requirements. Students complete the first two years of medical school, then we take a break to complete the research requirements before we complete the medical requirements in the hospital.”
While she works through her research requirements, she does not have any medical requirements. This allows her to fully invest her time into research.
Anderson explains: “The big difference in my program is the time constraint on my research project. With other research programs that focus on just a Ph.D., there is more time to complete your research project. But because of my medical requirements, I really need to be wrapping up my Ph.D. work in three to four years.”
Anderson already knew the laboratory and researcher she would like to work with, and she immediately was able to begin. Now she is working toward her Ph.D. requirements in the Francis laboratory at Sanford Research.
“I get a lot of personal time with my mentor. Our team also has weekly laboratory meetings. All of the laboratories that work on stem cells meet every two weeks to talk about our work and toss around ideas,” Anderson says.
“Every day in the laboratory is new,” she continues. “The projects I have worked on have taught me a so much professionally. Along with that, I have been able to collaborate with other labs which has been a great experience for me as a trainee.
“Unlike a traditional university setting where you are closed off, everything is open at Sanford Research. You get to see people. That open space also allows you to learn more from one another. You can talk with principal investigators, laboratory technicians and research staff in all the labs.”
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