Alaa Koleilat

Why did you choose research as a career?

I have always been fascinated with science — specifically biology — and I love to ask questions. I found that research was the perfect intersection of these two interests.

What attracted you to Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences?

One of the main aspects of Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences that I weighted heavily in my decision making was the fact that Mayo graduate students are what we call "free agents." The funding is independent of the lab the student chooses to be in. Therefore, you can work on any topic that interests you in the lab that you feel most comfortable in.

Why did you choose the clinical and translational science track?

I chose the clinical and translational science track because of its emphasis on translational science. At almost every student-led talk, one of the track's faculty members asks, "What is the path to translation?" We are focused on making sure our science is translatable to the clinic.

We always have patients in mind even at the lab bench, which gives students big-picture outlooks on their projects. It is so easy to get encompassed in the small details of our everyday experiments; therefore, being reminded of the greater purpose of our work is truly inspiring.

What do you like about Rochester, Minnesota?

I don't actually live in Rochester; I live in a small city called Northfield about an hour away. However, Rochester is a great city to raise a family in. There are great public schools, an active community and a lot more diversity than one would expect.

What are your plans for the future?

I am still exploring career options, and what I love about Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences is that it provides opportunities for its students to experience different careers such as teaching, public policy and entrepreneurship.

At this point I am definitely interested in continuing to a postdoctoral fellowship position after graduation. However, I'm not sure where I want to be long term.