Category: Medical Laboratory Science

Lilly’s journey from pre-health to medical lab science and a rewarding career beyond

Shadowing physicians at Dickinson County Hospital was a favorite past-time for Lilly Van Loon ’22. She experienced the hospital: the ER, pediatrics, physical therapy, social work. A career in medicine appealed to Lilly. The pre-health program at Michigan Tech was her choice to begin a journey to medical school. However, she soon realized she did not enjoy the pre-med journey. Maybe it was not the right destination for her.

Image of Michigan Tech Medical Lab Science student Lilly Van Loon
Michigan Tech Medical Lab Science student Lilly Van Loon

But a visit from Karyn Fay, former program director of medical lab science, to her classroom was the redirect she needed. She took the next exit and headed straight to medical lab science (MLS). She loved the analytical nature of MLS. It had process, order and fine detail to master. As she has found, “When you get a sample, you have to problem-solve. You get to help with the diagnosis of the patient. You work independently but you get to collaborate with others.” Lilly enjoyed learning about the different panels, gaining expertise. She knew she was headed in the right direction.

Undergraduate research is a key factor in choosing Michigan Tech

Working in research as an undergraduate was an important factor in selecting Michigan Tech in 2018. She knew she wanted to take part in research. Research came up during an early conversation with an advisor in biological science. Experiential learning from research would increase her knowledge level and round out her resume. She mastered skills like pipetting in the lab. She gained a deeper understanding of different tests and techniques. The repetition gave her confidence. The lab has been an important part of her journey.

Investigating the impact of high salt diets

Lilly’s lab in the Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology department focuses on “The Role of Orexin A in Salt Sensitive Hypertension”. Lilly says “Hypertension is a major risk factor of cardiovascular disease, which is the number one cause of death in the US.  There are many mechanisms that contribute to hypertension, and hyperactivity of orexin signaling is one of them.  Our goal is to see if a high salt diet increases activity of peripheral orexin in Dahl-Salt Sensitive rats. Also, if there is a difference in the expression of orexin between male and female rats. This is super interesting because this condition is so common in the US, and I am excited to understand more about the physiology.”

“Lilly joined our lab in 2020 and learned molecular techniques. She also did animal study including taking care of rats and measuring blood pressure by using a noninvasive tail cuff method. Blood pressure was measured once a week and Lilly seldom missed the measurements,” says Dr. Zhiying (Jenny) Shan, associate professor, kinesiology and integrative physiology. “In our lab we never had blood pressure data of Dahl salt sensitive female rats and Lilly helped us collect this data which fulfills our research. Besides animal work, Lilly dedicated a lot of her time in molecular-based research and worked hard from last summer till now. The PCR and Western blot data that she collected was useful for our future study and will be present in our future publications.”

Image of Western blot analysis of a Dahl-Salt kidney
Western blot analysis of a Dahl-Salt kidney

Lilly sees the benefits of research

Lilly knows the benefits of research for society. She says, “We can identify the limits and strive to learn more…. Without that curiosity and research, our society would remain stagnant and would miss out on a lot of amazing innovations.”

Personally, her research helped her manage time. She loved the research, but it was time consuming. Lilly estimates she committed 10 hours per week as a lab assistant in her sophomore and junior years, and increased it to 15-20 hours per week as a senior. She admits, “You forget this is an extracurricular thing. There’s so much to consider. Balancing research and school work, your mental and physical health, and social life. Thanks to my research I’ve been able to grow my skills in managing time.”

Dr Jenny agrees. “I think Lilly is also a self-disciplined person. Besides research, she has a lot of coursework and a job, but she can handle multiple tasks very well which definitely is due to her discipline and initiative. In addition, Lilly learned things fast, so I really like to work with her, and this is another reason that makes her successful in our lab.”

Lilly receives Undergraduate Research Internship Program grant at Michigan Tech

Receiving an Undergraduate Research Internship Program grant proved exciting. Awards of up to $1,600 are available to all Tech undergraduates interested in engaging in a research experience in a faculty member’s laboratory.  It took a lot of time, sweat and tears to apply for that grant. But it paid off in the end. Her one word to describe the experience: rewarding.

Award recipients are required to present their research at the annual Undergraduate Research Symposium. She accomplished this in March on Friday of Preview Day Weekend with her poster “The Role of Orexin A in Salt Sensitive Hypertension”.

Image of Michigan Tech students presenting research poster
Lilly Van Loon (left) presents “The Role of Orexin A in Salt Sensitive Hypertension” at The Pavlis Honors College’s 2022 Undergraduate Research Symposium, along with Sophia Bancker (right).

Lilly finds community at Michigan Tech

Lilly found the MLS program to be a tight-knit community where students helped each other. The student chapter of the Society of Medical Lab Scientists (SMLS) was a big part of the community. Lilly was responsible for public relations for SMLS. “SMLS has given me so much. I met some of my best friends through it. They will be in my life forever. You do study groups. It’s a great opportunity as an underclassman. You get advice from upperclassmen. As an upperclassman I get to return the favor. They are a great support system. We help each other with registration and studying, getting over the stress of school. We do the blood drive too.”

In looking back at her time at Michigan Tech, she says “This is a place I think you can thrive. I see all my friends, even from different majors, and many are thriving. I don’t think everyone can make it here, but big props to you if you can make it here.” She loves the community at Michigan Tech. “Everyone here welcomes you with open arms. Everyone is so open and friendly, especially in this major. People I met here in my first week are still some of my best friends.”

What’s next?

For Lilly college was always on the radar. She looked forward to exploring interests in science and preparing for that career in medicine. And now she is closer to the destination, with a practicum at Marshfield Clinic this summer as her next stop. Lilly beams when discussion turns to Marshfield Clinic. “There will be cool tests. Because Marshfield Clinic is so well known and brings in patients from all over, there will be things you don’t see every day. I will have three months in the classroom and then 6 months in the lab. Students that have gone through there have done well on their BOC (certification exams) and I am lucky to be one of those people to be a part of it. They have a 100% passing rate for their students.”

Image of Lily smiling with two thumbs up
Two-thumbs up from Lilly on this test result!

Of course, having great students like Lilly in their practicum keeps that passing rate high. Claire Danielson, medical laboratory science program director and academic advisor says “Lilly is a joy to have in the classroom and lights any room she enters! Her positive attitude and strong laboratory skills are going to make her an excellent Medical Laboratory Scientist. We have no doubt that Lilly will make us proud during her practicum at Marshfield Clinic!”

Once she is BOC certificated Lilly will continue her career as a medical lab scientist. She hopes to find a specialization and become a lead technician. Beyond that, she does not rule out returning to school for a masters. Pathology school to become a pathology assistant or entering public health are other options. Lots of exciting stops ahead on Lilly’s journey!

The impact of high levels of research on an undergraduate student at Michigan Tech

Research helps Sophia Bancker complete her goals

Sophia Bancker wanted lab experience. Along with her medical laboratory science (MLS) major and minors in international Spanish and public health, it was an important step on the journey to graduate school. So when Dr. Zhiying (Jenny) Shan asked for undergraduate students to do research and Sophia saw a fit with her schedule, she did not hesitate to raise her hand. This is not surprising for this ambitious Minnesotan who by her own admission does not like to sit still.

Image of Michigan Tech students presenting research poster
Sophia Bancker(right) presents “The Role of Orexin A in Salt Sensitive Hypertension” at The Pavlis Honors College’s 2022 Undergraduate Research Symposium, along with Lilly Van Loon (left).

Research Focus: Understanding the Impact of a High Salt Diet

She works with Dr. Shan and PhD student Xinqian (Sherry) Chen to better understand the impact of high salt diets on hypertension. “What interests me the most about my research is learning what different indicators of hypertension look like and how we test the different body organs to look for identification of Orexin A,” Sophia says. In the lab, she observes the adrenal glands, kidneys, heart, pancreas, and livers, isolates the RNA, and then runs diagnostic tests like PCR and western blot to see if Orexin is present or not, and at what level.

She sees first-hand how high salt diets affect the body and brain. Her work in the lab supports understanding of how the presence of Orexin A is related to high salt diets. She looks at impacts by gender too. Thanks to Sophia’s contributions, we know adrenal gland orexin receptors may be involved in salt-sensitive hypertension. More in vitro research will be done this summer.

The Benefits of Sophia’s Lab Experience at Michigan Tech

Sophia enjoys the lab experience too, particularly in Dr. Shan’s lab, where it is unique that all the faculty and students are women. She finds it to be a comforting environment, where it is safe to ask questions. “I had been kind of shy, so asking questions here was easy. Knowing how much innovation there is and research that has been and still needs to be done is exciting. And I got to be part of that process. I got to jump right in, working in the lab in the spring of 2020, my second semester of freshman year, starting the research right away. I did not have to wash lab dishes for anyone other than myself!” she says.

Sophia gets deep into the science, including the methodology and findings. “I’ve been able to read scientific articles and present them. It was really hard the first time I did it, but it keeps getting easier. I am gaining more confidence in my public speaking skills through it.” But that’s not all. “And I am getting a lot of practice with pipetting, more than I ever would have otherwise.”

Her contributions have not gone unnoticed. Sherry Chan observes, “Sophia is a self-disciplined and self-motivated individual. She attended the lab meetings, as many as she could, and presented in the journal club. She likes to learn everything from the lab and enjoys the lab work even though it is not related to her project. In addition, any lab work that I gave to her she would finish at her earliest convenience. As a researcher, one of the most important capabilities is to test the scientific hypothesis as soon as possible without procrastinating, and Sophia has this precious ability.”

Dr. Shan adds, “Sophia is a hard-working student with strong curiosity. She is eager to learn new techniques. She has a very busy schedule, but she has been trying her best to attend lab meetings, lab Journal clubs and do presentations in the journal club. Her hard-working and curious nature enables her to learn a lot and make great progress quickly.”

Learning about high-salt diets is eye-opening. But Sophia admits understanding what the day-to-day in a research lab looks like, the importance of asking questions and learning by doing, and how to read and present information from scientific journals has been the most gratifying component of her research.

The influence on her future has been as great as the impact of a high salt diet on your heart and kidney. “My experience changed my career choice. I had thought of medical school, but as I studied for MCAT and thought about the sacrifice (many years of medical school), I decided it wasn’t for me. I have decided to apply to PA (Physician’s Assistant) school instead.” Working as a PA is much more appealing to Sophia as knows she will “be more hands-on with people, connecting with them, and still provide the medical care they need. There’s also more work-life balance.” And she will get to do it sooner.

Her academic advisor Claire Danielson believes Sophia is well prepared for PA school. “Sophia is an extremely driven student in the medical laboratory science (MLS) program. She works hard to achieve her goal of going to PA school. Her valiant effort in our program and in undergraduate research does not go unnoticed. Sophia is an excellent role model for students in the MLS program. We wholeheartedly support her future goals and successes.” 

Another outcome of her research is that she was named first-place winner in The Pavlis Honors College’s 2022 Undergraduate Research Symposium for her work on “The Role of Orexin A in Salt Sensitive Hypertension.” Sophia shares, “it meant a lot to be rewarded for the effort and time doing the research, as well as preparing for the presentation. I took a lot of pride in the fact that I was able to readily relay all that I had learned! Public speaking  has not always been one of my finest skills.”

Image of Michigan Tech student Sophia Bancker enjoying the Keweenaw outdoors
When she’s not in the lab, Sophia enjoys the spectacular views of the Keweenaw.

Sophia’s Advice for Undergraduate Students Wanting to do Research

Michigan Tech is a STEM school with many labs for undergraduate students to do research. So the idea of a first- or second-year student doing research is not unusual here. Sophia’s advice for students looking to get involved in research at Michigan Tech is simple. “Talk to a professor. If you have an interest in a specific area and they cannot accommodate you in their lab, they likely know someone else who may need you in their lab.”

Sophia’s advice does not end there. She encourages students starting out at Michigan Tech to “join a fun club. Even just one. I really enjoyed the ski club. My friends and I started the pickleball club, too. There are about ten of us and we are looking to expand.” 

This summer, Sophia will study abroad in Ecuador and Peru with MedLife.  Working in South America at a mobile clinic focusing on treating Covid-19 and improving general hygiene. She looks forward to a hands-on experience in general medicine and public health, areas she thinks she will be working in many years down the road.

As Sophia looks back on her college experience, she reflects “I wish I did not put so much pressure on myself. Every exam did not have to be an ‘A’. A ‘B’ on your transcript is not the end of the world.” This leads us to conclude pressure and high salt diets are not good; terrific research experiences equals great!

Sarah LewAllen, MLS Clinical Practicum Spotlight

Sarah sitting in hospital laboratory.
Sarah LewAllen recently completed her clinical practicum at Beaumont Health – Royal Oak.

Where are you currently completing your practicum?

I completed my practicum at Beaumont Health – Royal Oak. I am currently certified through ASCP and working full time at Beaumont Health – Farmington Hills as a generalist.

What is your favorite aspect of your practicum?

The opportunity to work with experienced technologists was my favorite part of my practicum. Each tech had stories of interesting cases they’ve worked on and shared valuable tips and tricks that I currently use out on the bench. Getting to see how the theory covered in our classes applies out on the bench was also really rewarding!

Why did you choose a career in Medical Lab Science?

A career in MLS offers a broad spectrum of possibilities, even outside of healthcare. The versatility of the degree was a huge reason why I chose to major in medical lab science. I’ve always loved human physiology, so MLS was the perfect hands-on career to apply that knowledge in the healthcare setting with less patient contact.

Share something interesting with us about your practicum!

I got to observe and assist with a few bone marrow aspirations, both adult and pediatric! It was so fascinating seeing that procedure done firsthand. There aren’t many opportunities to work directly with the physicians and nurses, so it was a very cool experience.

What is something you think others should know about MLS?

Because medical lab scientists are behind the scenes, many people are unaware of the critical role we play in patient care. It is up to the lab to ensure the results we release to the physicians are accurate, so attention to detail, communication, and solid problem solving skills are essential. There’s a huge shortage of certified technologists, so this career is always in demand!

What advice would you give to students entering their practicum?

Study during your practicum like you did during your undergraduate courses. It’s so important to stay on top of the material you’ll need to know for the BOC exam. It will make reviewing for it much easier and less stressful when it comes time to take it! Also, never be afraid to ask questions. I learned so much from the technologists I worked with, in both bench skills and career advice. They are a huge asset to you!

MLS Program Passes NAACLS Accreditation Site Visit

MLS Faculty & Staff: Kelsey Johnson (MLS Clinical Practicum Coordinator), Karyn Fay (MLS Program Director), Brigitte Morin (Lecturer)
Pictured Left to Right: Kelsey Johnson (MLS Clinical Practicum Coordinator), Karyn Fay (MLS Program Director), and Brigitte Morin (Lecturer)

The Medical Laboratory Science (MLS) program recently had a Site Visit by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Science (NAACLS). On April 9-10, three reviewers from NAACLS were on campus intensely evaluating curricula, laboratories and outcome measures and talking to University administrators, current students, recent graduates, clinical affiliates and the MLS advisory board. They were especially interested in evaluating the support the administration has shown to accredit the MLS program at Michigan Tech.

The accreditation procedure has been a four-year process, starting in 2014. It began with a preliminary study, a self-study and finally a successful site visit. The MLS program passed without deficiencies, which is unheard of for a first-time program accreditation.

The final step is the NAACLS Executive Board meeting in September, upon which the accreditation will be conferred. This accreditation will allow the MLS program to grow, send more students to clinical sites, and help alleviate the critical need for medical laboratory scientists not only locally, but across the country.

NAACLS logo

Kelsey Johnson Selected as Career Ambassador for ASCP

The Medical Laboratory Science program has a long history at Michigan Tech, but many high school and college students are not aware of all of the opportunities available to them in allied health.

In order to continue promote careers in the medical laboratory, Kelsey Johnson (MLS Clinical Practicum Coordinator & Instructor) has joined a volunteer network though the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) as a career ambassador. The program provides free resources to accepted ambassadors to make engaging local students easy. We are excited by this new opportunity to connect and engage with future medical laboratory scientists!

Kelsey Johnson demonstrating how to use an medical analyzer to students.
Kelsey Johnson demonstrating how to use an medical analyzer to students.

Local Students Win Portage Health Foundation Making a Difference Scholarships to Michigan Tech

1491240303Four students who are entering Michigan Tech this fall to pursue health-related careers have received $8,000 Making a Difference scholarships from the Portage Health Foundation. Another 10 entering first-year students received $1,000 awards.

 

The $8,000 scholarships went to:

  • Peter Alger, Houghton, computer engineering
  • Alexa Destrampe, Lake Linden, exercise science
  • Hannah Kariniemi, Calumet, biological sciences
  • Karmyn Polakowski, Houghton, biological sciences

Receiving $1,000 scholarships were:

  • Blake Dupuis, Lake Linden, exercise science
  • Lauren Gabe, L’Anse, biological sciences
  • Austin Goudge, Houghton, medical laboratory science
  • Bella Nutini, Hancock, exercise science
  • Celia Peterson, Calumet, biomedical engineering
  • Anna Pietila, L’Anse, biological sciences
  • Lindsay Sandell, Houghton, biomedical engineering
  • Brooke Tienhaara, Calumet, biological sciences
  • Nicholas Walli, Finlandia University, biological sciences
  • Sloane Zenner, Houghton, mechanical engineering

The students are from Houghton, Keweenaw, Baraga or Ontonagon counties.

The 14 recipients of the 2017 awards have an average GPA of 3.81. Their interests reflect a broad spectrum of majors including biological sciences, exercise science, biomedical engineering, computer engineering, medical laboratory science and mechanical engineering. The scholarship winners flip Michigan Tech’s male to female ratio of 3:1, with 10 female and 4 male recipients.

The scholarships are part of a Michigan Tech-Portage Health Foundation partnership established in 2015 to support health-related research and education, jobs and community health. The scholarships were first awarded in 2016.

“The awards reflect the high-caliber student talent we have locally, thanks to exceptional schools, outreach programming and parent support,” says Jodi Lehman, director of foundations at Michigan Tech. “We know that student talent is key in supporting the success of college peers and inspiring K-12 students to pursue health science and engineering pathways.

The Portage Health Foundation and Michigan Tech share the long-term goal of retaining or recruiting back local workforce talent — whether that be orthodontists, doctors, physical therapists, orthopedic surgeons, biomedical engineers or professionals in the field of medical informatics. Scholarships ultimately play a critical role in helping to grow our local economy while fostering healthy communities.”

At a dinner for finalists, the scholarship recipients heard from current students also supported by the Portage Health Foundation through the Undergraduate Research Internship Program (URIP). Both speakers shared their internship experiences and career goals.

Read the full story.

Morin finalist Distinguished Teaching Awards

image77518-persThe William G. Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning seeks input for its annual Distinguished Teaching Awards, which recognize outstanding contributions to the instructional mission of the University.

Based on more than 50,000 student ratings of instruction responses, ten finalists have been identified for the 2017 awards. The selection committee is soliciting comments from students, staff, faculty and alumni to aid in deliberation.

Brigitte Morin is a finalist in the Assistant Professor/Lecturer/Professor of Practice Category

Emily Matthys ’13 ’16 receives national scholarship

Emily Matthys API AwardEmily Matthys recently received a national scholarship through the American Proficiency Institute (API) to help offset the cost of tuition while in her clinical practicum at the Marshfield Clinic.

According to the Medical Laboratory Observer:

“An appreciation for scientific advancements flows strongly among the winners of the 2016 American Proficiency Institute (API) scholarships. Five students enrolled in medical laboratory science programs across the United States won the awards to further their education.

“Now in our ninth year of awarding API Scholarships, I continue to be impressed with the caliber of students entering the medical laboratory science profession,” said Daniel C. Edson, President of API. “This year, a number of the scholarship winners are non-traditional students. They began their studies and careers in other fields, but found the clinical laboratory enticing enough to switch course.”

Ms. Matthys, who began her career as a field biologist, discovered the laboratory is where she excelled. “I think one of the most urgent issues clinical laboratory professionals will face is the spread of multi-drug resistant microorganisms,” she noted. “It will be rewarding to help identify and diagnose these infections to help inform treatment.”

Emily received her BS degree in Biology from Northern Michigan University and came to Michigan Technological University for a MS degree under Dr. Nancy Auer studying fisheries biology. After earning her MS degree, she took a position at Finlandia University teaching microbiology and it was there that she discovered medical microbiology and knew she wanted to pursue a third degree, in Medical Laboratory Science (MLS) at Michigan Tech. She graduated our program in December of 2015, and started her clinical practicum at the Marshfield Clinic in the summer of 2016.

Karyn Fay, the director of our MLS program, noted that “Emily was a very positive role model for younger students while at Michigan Tech and this award is well earned!” “Emily comes to the practicum with a wealth of experience,” said Julie Seehafer, Ph.D., director of Laboratory Education at Marshfield Clinic. “With her technical knowledge and her leadership skills, she is likely to make an immediate contribution.”

We are very proud of Emily, and wish her the best as she completes her clinical practicum and enters the field of Medical Lab Science!

Applications for summer 2017 Portage Health Foundation Graduate Assistantships

Screen Shot 2017-01-16 at 8.39.25 AMApplications for summer 2017 Portage Health Foundation Graduate Assistantships are being accepted and are due no later than 4 p.m. Feb. 14 to Debra Charlesworth in the Graduate School. Instructions on the application and evaluation process are online.

Students are eligible if all of the following criteria are met:

  • Must be a PhD student participating in health-related research that is aligned with the PHF’s mission
  • Must be eligible for or in Research Mode at the time of application
  • It must be two years after starting the graduate program at the time of application
  • Must not have previously received a PHF Graduate Assistantship

Priority will be given to students originally from Houghton, Keweenaw, Baraga or Ontonagon counties. Non-resident students and international students are encouraged to apply if their health research is applicable to health needs and job shortages of our local community (obesity research, rural health, medical informatics, drug delivery and lab testing, physical therapy, etc.).

These assistantships are available through the generosity of the Portage Health Foundation. They are intended to recognize outstanding PhD talent in health-oriented research areas. Applicants should be catalysts for promoting and improving the overall health of residents in Houghton, Keweenaw, Baraga and Ontonagon counties through one of the following:

  • Health research and technology development
  • Health education or preventive and wellness initiatives
  • Rural healthcare access, informatics and assessment of care

Students who receive full support through a PHF Graduate Assistantship may not accept any other employment. For example, students cannot be fully supported by a PHF Graduate Assistantship and accept support as a GTA or GRA.

VanAcker awarded National Student Honor Award from ASCP

VanAckerBrent VanAcker, a senior in the Medical Laboratory Science Program, was recently awarded an American Society of Clinical Pathology (ASCP) National Student Honor Award (NSHA). This award is based on academic achievement, leadership ability, community activities, professional goals, and endorsements from faculty and community leaders. Brent will be graduating at the end of this semester and then will be going to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN to complete a Clinical Practicum in Medical Laboratory Science. Our congratulations to Brent for earning this prestigious award!

 

Submitted by:
Karyn Fay  MS MT(ASCP)SH
Director: Medical Lab Science Program
Michigan Tech University