The Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Program: A Student Perspective

Rebecca Schmidt, Leah Colvin Wanshura, and Susan Wurster, BMB Track Representatives

As a world-class medical institution, Mayo strives to contribute to the field of medicine through its "three shields" of patient care, research, and education. As graduate students, we participate in two of those interdependent sectors. Many of the classes in the graduate program are team-taught, giving students the benefit of learning course topics from experts in each respective field. We learn from our professors outside of class as well. Faculty colloquia teach us about the research being done in other labs at Mayo, and faculty-invited seminar speakers inform us about the advances being made in other institutions around the country.

Just as we are educated by our professors, we students have the opportunity to educate each other. By acting as course teaching assistants, we have the chance to be exposed to teaching and administration skills. We participate in workshops and journal clubs to share recent advances in our own work and from researchers in our field of interest. Often, upperclassmen play a mentoring role to other students in the program, teaching them how to present posters and talks, and supporting them through their progress in the curriculum. As students, we feel that the research opportunities at Mayo represent the best of several worlds. Our research ranges from basic science in biochemistry and cell biology to translational studies applicable to diseases including cancer and neurodegenerative disease. Within the institution, we have a choice of mentors that include top names in different fields of study.

We may choose from over 60 faculty in the BMB department alone. Additionally, students in the BMB track may work with a mentor from any department. This is reflective of the collaborative atmosphere that is present at Mayo more so than at larger institutions where competitive atmospheres prevail. Though the research choices are broad, the size of the student body allows for closer relationships among students and faculty.

As an amalgam of three tracks, Biochemistry and Structural Biology, Cell Biology and Genetics, and Cancer Biology, the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology allows students to be exposed to research from a wide range of fields. By simply being exposed to such varied individual and departmental interests, we can make unexpected collaborations and connections between aspects of biomedical science in the research environment, but because we are at a medical institution, we are reminded daily of how our work may impact patient care, Mayo's third shield. We know that as researchers here at Mayo, we contribute to the body of knowledge that medical doctors use to improve treatment options and quality of life for patients.