PhD in Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Biophysics, University of Minnesota
Current Title, Department, Employer:
Senior Associate Consultant II – Mayo Clinic
Director, Musculoskeletal Biology and Immunology Laboratory
Department of Orthopedic Surgery/Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
My graduate training with Merry Jo Oursler, PhD at the University of Minnesota was focused on the cellular and molecular mechanisms of osteoclast survival and apoptotic signals. My post-doctoral research began at the University of Minnesota Duluth on an Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Awards (IRACDA) K12 fellowship under the mentorship of George Trachte, PhD. This was a unique program that was focused on developing a diverse group of highly trained scientists to address the nation’s biomedical research needs. The program combined traditional mentored postdoctoral research experience with an opportunity to develop academic skills, including teaching, through workshops and mentored teaching assignments at an under-represented partner institution with the goal of training and developing a diverse biomedical workforce. My research focused on studying the role of preeclampsia on maternal and neonate outcomes. Furthermore, I developed a model to explore the protective effect that preeclampsia has on the development of breast cancer.
I then had the opportunity to become a fellow on the Musculoskeletal Training Grant at Mayo Clinic. I worked with Dr. Thomas Spelsberg on studying the role of estrogen and selective estrogen receptor modulators on skeletal health. While on this grant, I was awarded a NRSA Ruth L. Kirschstein Postdoctoral Fellowship (F32) and began collaborating with renowned tendon and soft tissue orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Peter Amadio. During this time, in parallel with my skeletal work, I began researching tendon and connective tissues with a focus on tendinopathy, tendon healing and regeneration. In addition, I began to conduct research on fibrosis found in the subsynovial connective tissue (SSCT) of carpal tunnel syndrome patients. As my career advanced, I transitioned to a junior faculty position in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery. I received numerous grants including a Center for Regenerative Medicine grant exploring the role of stem cell therapies in degenerative tendinopathies, and a Career Development Award which allowed me to develop preliminary data for my R01. I then joined the faculty in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Indiana University School of Medicine in 2020. Most recently in 2022, I was recruited back to Mayo Clinic as a faculty member in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
Who have been your mentors?
I’ve had several outstanding mentors throughout my career that have helped me along the way including my doctoral thesis advisor Merry Jo Oursler, PhD, and my postdoctoral mentors George Trachte, PhD, Thomas Spelsberg, PhD, and Peter Amadio, MD. Without a doubt I feel very strongly that George was absolutely instrumental in my development as an academic leader. The knowledge and skills I obtained under his mentorship on the K12 award were transformative for establishing my independence. In addition, Tom was very supportive of my pursuing multiple areas of interest and when the opportunity arose, I began a collaboration with Peter Amadio and his laboratory to bring my cellular and molecular biology skills to ongoing research in tendon and connective tissues. Peter was a strong advocate for me when I completed my fellowship and supported my transition to junior faculty in the department of Orthopedic Surgery at Mayo Clinic. Peter is a rigorous scientist clinician and a champion for research, the clinic and individuals. He is one of the most straightforward and honest people I know. The opportunity to work with Peter was instrumental in developing my interests in connective tissue research. I am very pleased to continue to collaborate with him.
What are your specific research areas and expertise?
My laboratory focuses on investigating the local and systemic impacts of aging, cellular senescence, immune dysregulation and metabolic dysfunction in various musculoskeletal diseases and conditions including carpal tunnel syndrome, Dupuytren contracture, connective tissue fibrosis, tendinopathy, rotator cuff tears, tendon injury and repair, and skeletal biology with the goal of developing evidenced-based preventatives and therapeutics. I am also the Chair for Equity, Inclusion and Diversity in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. This is a mission and role that I strongly value. I feel that the mentoring and support that I can give to others is a larger legacy than any amount of research advancement that I, as one individual, can produce.
What are you currently working on?
My laboratory has a particular focus on systemic aging, inflammation and metabolic dysfunction on musculoskeletal pathologies. Currently my laboratory is working on the role of cellular senescence in carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinopathies and musculoskeletal aging. Additionally, my laboratory is researching the role of pancreatic dysfunction on skeletal health.
What do you want to do next in your career?
Creative writing. Prior to getting my doctorate I was a film studies major. In my free time (which isn’t much lately) I like to work on screen plays and have been outlining novels. I also have done a lot of coaching for endurance sports in particular running at the high school level. I really enjoy doing this – so I hope it will be in my future again.
What advice would you give young investigators in the field?
Ask people for advice including your peers. Get feedback. Network and get to know a lot of people
When you’re not in the lab, what do you like to do for fun?
I like trail running and being in the outdoors. I also enjoy watching action/adventure films, Asian films and Chinese historical dramas.
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