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COVID-19: Updates and Plans ›

Advice for Pursuing Veterinary Medicine

Although URGO is a small department at a small university, we provide comprehensive guidance in pursuing pre-health tracks. Students can come to our office to get on track for dental and medical school and more. One student who came to URGO for guidance and research opportunities was Emily Gregg ’17. While Gregg is currently in her fourth year of veterinary medicine at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, her experiences at Augsburg forever shaped her educational trajectory and career.

Emily Gregg holding a dog.
Emily Gregg ’17

Gregg pinpoints her time on the soccer team and her research experiences to be the most significant parts of her time at Augsburg. She took part in four different research projects through URGO, study abroad, and the University of Minnesota. The most instrumental was a month and a half spent in Uganda with then biology faculty member Dr. Kevin Potts researching chimpanzee habitats as a Sundquist Scholar. The relationship she formed with Dr. Potts became core support in her pursuit of veterinary medicine; while Gregg had always wanted to go to vet school, her time with Potts sparked a passion for field work and research.

Because her interests became both academic and practical in nature, Gregg applied for multiple DVM/PhD programs as these combine Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and PhD degrees. She did not get accepted into those programs, but her nontraditional approach to veterinary medicine made her stand out in her DVM applications and she received multiple acceptances. Her diverse research experience and wildlife interest made her unique in comparison to other applicants. Gregg also believes that her focus on public health and belief that all health is connected gave her an edge.

Regarding applying for veterinary schools, Gregg has specific advice for undergraduates.

  • Students should log as many shadowing hours as they can with many types of veterinarians.
  • Programs want to see diversity in your experiences and interests. Pursue passions outside of being a vet so that you can continue to connect with other people throughout school and your career! Students who emphasize their authenticity in essays show a well-rounded applicant who has the capability to be a personable professional.
  • Students should highlight their flexibility in learning and ideas. The field of veterinary medicine is going through a transition period, and schools will be looking for innovation and want to change and shape the field.

She also has crucial guidance for students who are accepted and about to begin at vet school.

  • Every year students are expected to learn a larger amount of knowledge in smaller amounts of time; know that the learning gets easier.
  • In Gregg’s own words, “C’s get degrees. Focus on enjoying the experience and diving in.”
  • While many medical students tend to be high achievers, Gregg believes that high standards are the enemy and encourages students to not aim for perfection. They should aim on making a difference in whatever way works for them.
  • Finally, Gregg emphasizes being a caring doctor. “Be the best doctor you can be, unaffected by the grades you received,” she says. “Personal skills are more important than anything else.”

Boren Language Awards: Why you should consider applying

Augsburg’s URGO and Study Abroad/Away offices encourage students to apply for the Boren Language Awards. Scholarships up to $25,000 are awarded to students to build proficiency in a wide range of critical languages, including Arabic, Hindi, Mandarin, and 60 other languages. Students are also expected to immerse themselves in the culture whose language they choose to study. Additionally, Boren alumni are expected to apply their knowledge to public service by working for at least one year with the federal government including the Departments of State, Defense, and Homeland Security and USAID. Continue reading “Boren Language Awards: Why you should consider applying”

An Allopathic vs Osteopathic Degree: An Augsburg Alum’s Opinion

Many Augsburg graduates go on to pursue medical degrees at a variety of institutions. One consideration that medical students must consider when choosing their program is the choice between an allopathic or osteopathic medical degree (MD vs. DO). According to the American Osteopathic Association, “osteopathic medicine emphasizes the interrelated unity of all systems in the body, each working with the other to heal in times of illness.” Allopathic medicine is more concerned with the direct treatment of symptoms to cure illness and disease. Augsburg alum Anil Gherau ’15 chose the osteopathic path and offers some insight into his decision. Continue reading “An Allopathic vs Osteopathic Degree: An Augsburg Alum’s Opinion”

Mayo College of Medicine and Science Virtual Info Session 12/3/20

Thursday, December 3rd, 2020 from 2:30 – 4:00pm via Zoom

Interested in pre-health or pursuing a doctorate degree in medical sciences? Come to this virtual group session to learn about what Mayo College of Medicine and Science has to offer!

Contact with questions or to RSVP and receive Zoom meeting info.

URGO Summer Research Info Sessions 11/18/20 and 11/19/20

Join URGO to learn about on campus summer research!


Wednesday, November 18, 2020 from 5-6pm via Zoom.


  • Research and creative activities for all disciplines
  • Faculty mentorship
  • Professional development
  • Get paid to do research!
  • No previous experience required!

For more info or to RSVP and get the Zoom meeting info, contact us at

Ross University Info Session 11/5/20

Thursday, November 5, 2020 from 6:00-7:30pm via Zoom

Milena Garcia, Associate Director of Admissions, will speak about med school competencies and how Covid has changed teaching. Augsburg alum, Cedith Giddings, ’15 Biology, will share her perspectives as a med student at Ross.

For more info or to RSVP for Zoom info, contact Catherina Kipper at

Pre-Health Newsletter: October 9, 2020

Prehealth Advising

I hope fall semester is going well for you and you are staying healthy! COVID-19 has precipitated many changes and requires us to be flexible and creative. These are important attributes to demonstrate, especially for prehealth students. One major change for prehealth students is how to gain experience during a pandemic. What many admissions offices, across all programs, have shared is the continued need to gain experience although there may be fewer opportunities to meet in person or to shadow. For that reason, virtual information sessions are more important than ever. Please consider participating in the following opportunities I am hosting or those shared in the newsletter:
Continue reading “Pre-Health Newsletter: October 9, 2020”

URGO Alums Working with COVID give Advice to Current Undergraduate

Augsburg URGO students often leave our campus with large dreams of affecting change in the world around them. Two such students are Will Matchett PhD ’13 and Brittany Kimball MD ’13. These alumni pursued different career paths in STEM that are directly shaping healthcare in our current COVID world.

Will Matchett, PhD

Will Matchett PhD '13
Will Matchett ’13

Matchett, who graduated from Augsburg with a B.S. in Biology and a B.A. in Chemistry, took a gap year in 2013 before pursuing a Ph.D. in Virology and Gene Therapy from the Mayo Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. He now works as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Minnesota, where he will spend 3-5 years acquiring training that will allow him to run his own lab someday. His current research revolves around COVID, infecting cells from the bronchial tube with the virus that causes COVID to understand what types of cells are being infected and what happens to them at a molecular level. This line of work directly affects the creation of new therapies for COVID, which in turn makes Matchett’s work at the lab relevant to all our lives.

Matchett was undecided about his major when he came to Augsburg, but upon taking an entry-level science course, he realized the subject was a passion that could lead to a future career. He found a home in the biology department and utilized multiple campus resources to affirm this science career path. The Strommen Center provided career exams that gave insight into what job sectors fit Matchett best, while his research experiences with URGO and the Mayo Clinic confirmed his skill and desire to be a scientist. One gap year and Ph.D. later, Matchett is working to be a leader in science, hoping to one day teach at a small university like Augsburg. His best pieces of advice to undergraduates? Get involved with research outside the classroom to know whether a science career fits you, and most importantly, listen to URGO and the other resources available to you on campus.

Brittany Kimball MD '13
Brittany Kimball ’13

Brittany Kimball, MD

While Matchett studied biology at Augsburg, Kimball studied alongside him with a different career path in mind. Her dream since 17 years old was to be a doctor, inspired by her mother’s work as a nurse. Her time at Augsburg was shaped by volunteering opportunities with the Campus Kitchen and Health Commons, as well as a research opportunity in bioethics at Mayo Clinic. After graduating with a B.S. in Biology from Augsburg, Kimball attended medical school at the Mayo Clinic School of Medicine and is currently in her third year of residency at the University of Minnesota in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. After residency, she’d like to pursue a fellowship in hematology/oncology, but her current work is being colored by the world’s COVID environment.

The methods and practices of her residency look much different during a global pandemic. Kimball is on a constant learning curve, reading everchanging literature about COVID and finding new ways to support patients in an environment where most human connection has had to be removed from the job. Virtual visits with outpatients have become a key part of her work, while also continuing to care for those in the hospital in the safest ways possible. To keep her resiliency in that environment, Kimball leans on her support system at home and diverts energy into finding new resources and ways to support her patients, aiming to give the highest standard of personable medical care during this difficult time. Her advice to students considering med school is to garner as many varied experiences as possible. “There are many parts that make up medicine,” reflects Kimball. “Make sure you explore all the parts.” Prospective med students should spend time around both research and community health.

Advice for Undergraduates

Both Matchett and Kimball recognize their undergraduate experiences are different than those available to current Auggies during a pandemic. However, they offer some suggestions for gaining important experience in this new, largely virtual environment.

For pre-med students, medicine is about connectedness and caring for the community.

  • During COVID, be politically active (writing letters and researching issues).
  • Do volunteer work for local community organizations.
  • Get involved with Augsburg campus initiatives like Campus Kitchen or the Health Commons.
  • Consider working as a contact tracer.

For researchers, continuing to gain perspective on research as a career is imperative.

  • Reach out to scientists for informational interviews to learn about their experiences and gain insight on what their job is like.
  • Seek out research opportunities such as academic year and summer research through URGO.

If you are a student interested in speaking with either Kimball or Matchett about their experiences, reach out to to get connected.

Exciting Research News for URGO Alum!

URGO alum Mathia (Tia) Colwell ’15 was recently awarded the Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship (DDF) through the University of Minnesota. According to UMN, “The Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship (DDF) gives the University’s most accomplished Ph.D. candidates an opportunity to devote full-time effort to an outstanding research project by providing time to finalize and write a dissertation during the fellowship year.” If this award is not enough to convince you of Colwell’s academic prowess, she was also awarded the F31 Ruth L. Kirschstein Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award through the National Institute of Health (NIH), which provides two years of funding for her research.

These incredibly impressive accomplishments come after years of study and research that began during Colwell’s time at Augsburg. A graduate from Augsburg’s biology department, her research experience in 2015 under Dr. Ralph Butkowski was a catalyst for her career as a research scientist. “Participating in URGO established a basic foundation of what I could expect in graduate school with developing the logic behind research design,” she said. “I enjoyed the URGO experience so much, that I was thrilled to learn I could pursue a career in research by attending graduate school.” Colwell is currently in the third year of her Ph.D. program, designing and working on a project that investigates the multigenerational effects of arsenic exposure during pregnancy on the epigenome.

Congratulations Tia for your impressive work as a scientist!

The Impact of Off-Campus Research

Laura Fricke '19
Laura Fricke ’19

One of URGO’s primary roles on campus is to offer academic year and summer research opportunities to students across campus. Additionally, URGO helps students find off-campus research opportunities that diversify their portfolio and build their research skills. One alum who chose to look off-campus was Laura Fricke ’19.

Fricke conducted research under Dr. Matthew Beckman in the summer of 2018. URGO helped her discover that a future of scientific research may be the career for her, but Fricke wanted to verify that hypothesis in a new, exciting environment. She turned to the National Science Foundation (NSF). The foundation funds Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) all over the nation; this was the avenue through which Fricke found her REU at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York City. She used her interests from URGO’s lab (functional genomics as well as evolutionary and developmental biology) to find a specific project and mentor that interested her. Fricke spent the summer of 2019 living in NYC with a cohort of 9 other researchers; they attended classes through the AMNH’s graduate school every Monday and spent the rest of the week on their respective research projects. Fricke conducted research on the cuticular pattern formation of hexapods and did so mostly independently after learning new protocols and research methods. Her summer concluded with the submission of a research paper and an oral presentation to 50-70 scientific professionals at the museum. While this off-campus research offered valuable exposure to new methods, equipment, and skills, Fricke emphasized the lessons from URGO that prepared her for her REU. “I took the protocols and methods from URGO [to New York],” said Fricke, “as well as time management, navigating a lab, speaking to a mentor, and writing scientific papers.” The two experiences built upon each other to help Fricke learn about herself as a scientist and confirm her career goals as a researcher.

Upon completion of her REU, Fricke applied to graduate school and will now be being pursuing a Ph.D. in Entomology and Microbiology at the University of Minnesota this fall. Additionally, she was awarded a Diversity of View and Experience Fellowship (DOVE), a prestigious award that funds two years of graduate study to 18 students at UMN.

Fricke believes there are many reasons current Auggies should pursue off-campus research.

  • A second research experience sets apart graduate school and scholarship applicants.
  • More people can attest to your abilities as a researcher and student and provide meaningful recommendations.
  • If you conduct research in a new place, you are exposed to a different culture and way of life that widens your worldview.

Without her NSF REU, Fricke does not think she would be in the position she is today, confident in her career as a scientist and pursuing a field of study she could never have imagined without her research experiences. If you have not considered pursuing an off-campus research opportunity, let Fricke’s story inspire you to do so.