Denisonians in Health Professions: Molecular & Developmental Biology

Name:  Kelsey Troyer (maiden name Elliott)
Denison Graduation Year:  Class of 2015
Denison Major:  Biology
Graduate Degree Type:  PhD in Molecular and Developmental Biology, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Class of 2020
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Describe the process you went through while selecting your graduate school and career pathway: what impacted your decision?

I was interested in programs that focused on ‘translational’ biomedical sciences, where I could work on human diseases. When going on interviews, the funding scenarios of the PI’s in the programs significantly weighed on my decision to choose a program in the end.

What challenges did you face on the way to or during graduate school, and how did you overcome them?

Finding somewhere to live when moving to a new city! It’s difficult to balance living somewhere close to work, but not too expensive. Graduate school stipends are tiny!! Finding roommates in your new graduate school class is a great way to get around this. Additionally, I found it difficult to decide which faculty I was going to rotate with since I had so many scientific interests! The best advice I got to curb that was to do extremely diverse rotations, I did one with a brand new faculty, one with a very established faculty member, and one with a mid-career faculty member, and all gave very different lab environments.

What has been your favorite part of your graduate school experience so far?

Indulging my curiosities and being able to set my own schedule. This is unfortunate a blessing and a curse, since grad students don’t get dedicated ‘Paid time off’ or ‘vacation days’, so I get to take as much or as little time off as I want, and work as many or as few hours a week as I need to. Some weeks are good, some weeks are bad. Flexibility is a fantastic thing about graduate school.

What are your professional plans post-graduation?

I am planning to do a post-doctoral fellowship followed by a career in Science Policy.

What advice would you give a current Denison student considering a graduate program like yours?

Think about what kind of research topics you want to do, and find a place where there are an abundance of faculty you could see yourself working with. Finding a place where the current students seem happy is also important. I did at least one interview somewhere that all the students couldn’t wait to leave the program. Make sure the program boasts about their rates of students landing their top choice post-doc or industry job, and that their faculty aren’t anti-industry! Some places will be full of faculty that look down on industry, and it’s important to find opportunities to explore that since not EVERY PhD can/wants to stay in academia.