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Biology student to strive for 'Excellence' at Johns Hopkins

When Kelsey Stuttgen broke her leg in seventh grade, it set her on a course to not only graduate from college in three years but also to earn acceptance into one of the top biomedical research schools in the country. 

The senior biology major from Eau Claire will start her graduate career working toward a Ph.D. in the department of human genetics at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. She will begin the first of three research rotations on June 1 in a breast cancer research lab. 

Seeing how doctors help patients and families inspired Stuttgen to go into medical research, she said. She began taking classes at UW-Eau Claire during her senior year at Altoona High School, enrolling in biology and pre-medicine after graduation. 

"Even as a high school student I felt immediately welcomed at UW-Eau Claire," Stuttgen said. "The professors are not only excellent teachers, they are also excellent advisers and mentors. I want to match the level of passion and care my professors have displayed in their work in whatever I end up doing." 

As a high school student, Stuttgen excelled in college-level courses, said Dr. Julie Anderson, director of the Health Careers Center at UW-Eau Claire. "Kelsey has a highly developed work ethic," Anderson said. "She goes above and beyond what I have seen in the majority of students at any level. She is a delightful person, and I have thoroughly enjoyed all interactions with her, both in and out of the classroom." 

During her undergraduate career, Stuttgen worked closely with Anderson, who guided and advised her on choosing courses, studying for standardized exams and the graduate school application process. Anderson also served as a research adviser and mentor, a factor Stuttgen said improved her chances at being accepted to Johns Hopkins. 

"At UW-Eau Claire, students can engage in faculty-student research, which is something that is hard to come by at an undergraduate institution," Stuttgen said. "Last year, I conducted a research project on a type of infection in rotator cuff repair surgery with Dr. Anderson and Dr. Edgar Hicks from Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire. Very rarely is a student able to propose an independent project like this, especially a collaborative project under the guidance of a professor and an orthopedic surgeon. However, Eau Claire has two large hospitals that make health professionals highly accessible, especially with the many internships, shadowing experiences and volunteer opportunities set up for UW-Eau Claire students." 

Kelsey personifies the image of the all-around outstanding student, Anderson said of her mentee.

"I have been involved in advising and mentoring biology undergraduates for nearly 17 years," Anderson said. "In that capacity, I annually review many pre-medical students and those pursuing Ph.D.'s in the biomedical sciences. Over the years, I have met very few undergraduates who have the complete package of positive attributes and use them as effectively and skillfully as Kelsey does. I have no doubt that she will be outstanding. She knows what needs to be done to reach her goals, and she backs those decisions with focused hard work." 

With high-quality academics, faculty-student research and small class sizes with personal attention from professors, Stuttgen said her time at UW-Eau Claire prepared her well to succeed in her graduate career. 

"UW-Eau Claire provided me with the tools to be competitive against applicants to Johns Hopkins who were primarily from Ivy League undergraduate institutions," Stuttgen said. "UW-Eau Claire is truly an excellent school with a challenging, yet supportive, environment. I would highly recommend it to any student or family who is considering attending."

Photo caption: Dr. Julie Anderson (left) with Kelsey Stuttgen

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