Michelle E. Casper

How does your Mayo Graduate School education compare with previous education that you have received at other institutions?
It is a lot more independent. It is set up so I choose what to do and figure out the best way to get it done. This is partially due to my track, but in general there are the core classes, a few other classes, and then I am expected to figure out what I need in order to succeed and graduate. If I want guidance, it is there. But there is no one checking up on me every quarter. It is a different stage in life where textbooks become journals and review articles that demonstrate controversies in the field instead of hard facts. The ultimate goal is no longer to regurgitate an answer. It is to come up with a new idea or view and add to the field.

What opportunities have you been introduced to since being at Mayo Graduate School?
I've met a lot of my research idols. I've been taught by people who are founders of the pivotal points they are teaching. I have access to people who are at the top of their fields and who are willing to lend advice and insight. There's a top researcher in my field on my thesis committee. I've traveled to conferences in cool places, helped write grants and papers and written others on my own, and I've been a volunteer for clinical research. I've met people from all over the world, and I've been given free range (within reason, of course) to come up with ideas and try to implement them.

Why did you choose Mayo Graduate School?
I was almost done with the course work already, and I wanted to start pursuing Ph.D. and M.D. degrees. It seemed like backtracking to start somewhere else. Not to mention that I already had a good idea of how things run at Mayo Clinic. I had established good connections, and I like both Minnesota and the people here.

How would you describe the atmosphere of Mayo Clinic?
It is friendly, but intense and professional. There is a laid-back attitude in general, but life can seem hectic because there is so much to do and so little time. You can have a very international experience because of the international population, but it also has a small-town Minnesota feel to it, too.

What are your plans for the future?
I plan to go to medical school, finish an orthopedic residency, practice, teach and research at a research and medical institution, then retire and open a bakery.

If you could describe Mayo Clinic in one word, what would it be?
Oxymoron.

With what activities are you involved in Rochester?
Soccer, softball, kickball, church choir, tutoring math, Graduate Student Association-BME representative, Initiative for Medical Equipment Sustainability.

How does Rochester differ from your hometown? College community?
Rochester reminds me of my hometown, just scaled down a bit. I run into people I know a lot more here, and I don't have to drive as far. College was like a big long adult summer camp where I got to learn and have fun. It was much warmer and my friends were concentrating on different things educationally and intellectually, mostly business, music, the arts, religion and languages. There, I was surrounded by people all going through pretty much the same thing as me, because we were all going to college and all trying to graduate. Here, it is much more spread out and intertwined with the working community.

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