Advancing the Science

Mayo Clinic Medical Science Blog – an eclectic collection of research- and research education-related stories: feature stories, mini news bites, learning opportunities, profiles and more from Mayo Clinic.

January 5, 2015

The Next Generation of Biomedical Researchers: Torn by Irresistible Forces

By Robert Nellis
Katie Hartjes, Mayo graduate student

Katie Hartjes, Mayo graduate student

Hours of study, lectures to attend, research to complete, labs to monitor, data to analyze, papers to write, new solutions to old problems to noodle on. It’s just another day in the life of a biomedical research student. The to-do list never seems to end. Morning to night, seven days a week.

 The path to becoming a biomedical researcher is not for the fainthearted. It requires years of study, an insatiable curiosity and unflagging persistence in the face of failure.

 A Ph.D. candidate at Mayo Graduate School, Katherine A. Hartjes says traveling that long road has been worth it. She has always loved science, and that passion has sustained her through years of study that has now focused on specializing in cardiovascular regeneration using bioengineered stem cells.

“I’ve always been motivated to contribute to scientific discoveries,” she says. “Regenerative medicine is such an exciting field. It requires a lot of strategic thinking and planning. It demands creativity, and organization in both the big picture and the small details. I really enjoy that. And one day I hope to be able to translate my work into novel therapeutics for patients.”

Kevin Bieniek, Mayo graduate student

Kevin Bieniek, Mayo graduate student

Kevin Bieniek, a third-year Ph.D. student at Mayo Graduate School, spends little time thinking about the future. He’s too busy studying the human brain. More specifically, Bieniek has narrowed his studies to the pathological links of frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

One characteristic Hartjes and Bieniek both agree on is the need for an unquenchable curiosity. Curiosity is an essential element to science — some would say it’s the first job requirement.

“You have to want to know how things work,” Bieniek says, “and then why they don’t work when something breaks down.”

There is also a need, Hartjes points out, to bring scientific rigor to her research studies. “Good researchers must constantly strive to pursue the unknown,” she says. “It takes unwavering commitment to the scientific question, rigorous experimental design and personal ownership of the quality of the research. Patience and perseverance are critical attributes to overcome the many obstacles in the scientific process.”

Dean Jim Maher, Mayo Graduate School

Dean Jim Maher, Mayo Graduate School

These characteristics are all crucial, says Louis (Jim) J. Maher III, Ph.D., dean of the Mayo Graduate School.

“Science research is incredibly difficult,” Dr. Maher says. “It’s fraught with obstacles and frustrations. Only people driven by curiosity and capable of persistence in the face of failure and rejection will survive in the business. That being said, biomedical research fields are full of joy if one knows where to look.”





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Tags: ALS, biomedical research, Jim Maher, Lou Gehrig's disease, Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, neurology, People, Progress Updates, regenerative medicine, research education

Why do we even have an intramural research program at NIH? Is there any research being done at NIH that is any better or innovative than is being done at the hundreds of top medical schools or research institutes around the country? I also wonder if the cost of research being done at NIH might be more than similar research being done via government issued grants from the NIH to research institutes and Medicals schools across the country.

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