Kelly Lu landed at Augsburg for two reasons: the location and her mom. Kelly wanted to stay within her comfort zone of the Twin Cities and was focused on smaller campuses for the small class sizes, which is how she first encountered Augsburg. Kelly had an opportunity to tour Augsburg’s campus during an URGO field trip, and when she told her mom about her experience, her mom told her to go to Augsburg.
“My mom believed URGO was a helpful program,” said Kelly.
Kelly enrolled at Augsburg and initially planned to follow a medical track. She didn’t have a clear direction in high school about what she wanted to major in, but her mom thought the medical field would hold promising work.
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
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
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 ever-changing 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 firstname.lastname@example.org to get connected.
The global pandemic that has swept the world has put a bright spotlight on public health, an important healthcare avenue that directly affects populations across the globe. We spoke with three recent Augsburg graduates pursuing careers in this field, allowing them to shed light on their experiences and the special role public health plays in this crisis.
Sydney Busch ’18 is an URGO alum who will be pursuing a Ph.D. in Biostatistics at Emory University in their Rollins School of Public Health come fall. Her interest in this discipline stems from a love for biology and statistics that was nurtured through her research with Dr. Bankers-Fulbright at Augsburg in 2016. Her B.S. in mathematics and biology laid the foundation for her work as a biomedical modeler at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center where she creates data models that help the public comprehend the tracking and timeline of COVID-19. “Public health has the capacity to reach so many [people] versus one person at a time,” says Busch. Her current work gives her extraordinary experience in her Ph.D. specialty of infectious disease modeling. Busch is excited to continue her education in a field that has become more relevant than ever before.
Chung Lip ’18 graduated from Augsburg with a double major in biology and psychology before continuing in a Masters of Public Health Program at Columbia that he graduated from this spring. With his current master’s degree, he is a Public Health Education Specialist specializing in population and family health. According to Lip, his specialty is not designed for times like our current epidemic, so he is continuing his education on a somewhat untraditional path. He will join an accelerated nursing program at Mount Aloysius College so he can one day provide health education in a clinical setting, working directly with patients. Lip says that public health is usually behind the scenes, but this pandemic has allowed for it to be visible and recognized as imperative to our nation’s health.
Hamdi Adam ’18 followed his B.S. in biology from Augsburg with a Master of Public Health degree at the University of Minnesota. His specialty is epidemiology, a domain that he found through his research experiences at URGO and UMN. Adam loves that URGO allowed him to see “science in real life,” Following that “real life” calling, and feeling boxed in by biomed research or med school tracks, led Adam to public health. As a man of East African immigrant heritage, Adam is interested in chronic disease and cardio research that will directly impact his community. His goal is health equity, finding the causes of disparities to develop tailored intervention. Seeing as COVID-19 disproportionately affects African American communities, his goal to expand specialized community research is relevant and imperative now. Adam will continue his education with a Ph.D. in Epidemiology at UMN this fall.
HealthPartners Institute, researchers at the University of Minnesota, and Modern Logic have teamed up to create the SafeDistance smartphone application and website, a new tool that helps users track COVID-19 outbreaks using crowd-sourced information from anonymous users.
The free app sends notifications as users travel through high-risk areas. “As you’re moving around, you’ll actually see if you’re going into a higher risk area or you’re coming from a higher risk area,” Brian Krohn ’08 told Kare 11. Krohn is a project manager and entrepreneur-in-residence at Minneapolis-based Modern Logic and technical lead on the SafeDistance project.
Users of the app take a short COVID-19 symptom survey and then see a map of their neighborhood, as well as other neighborhoods. Data will not be used for-profit and users will not be asked for identifiable information. The app also offers tips about health risks and how to maintain social distancing.
Krohn, a Rhodes Scholar, has been described as a “Minnesota “Genius”. His undergraduate research at Augsburg University led him to a “Good Morning America” appearance in which he talked about a process to produce environmentally-friendly fuel, which was later commercialized in the development of a $9 million pilot plant. Among Krohn’s creations are surgery tools,wizard staffs, a cycling workout app, the Soundly app, and more recently, SafeDistance.
While the app launched recently in Minnesota, it is expected to expand across the country soon.