Alumni Spotlight: Kate Cooper

HeadshotCurrent Employer:

Loras College

Job Title:

Associate Professor of Biology and Chair of the Division of Molecular, Life, and Health Sciences

Home Town:

Dubuque, IA

Current Location:

Dubuque, IA

Research Topic:

Investigation of the role of a PCH protein in the migration of neutrophils

Faculty Advisor:

Anna Huttenlocher

CMB Degree Received in:


Describe your current position:

I am a biology professor and the Chair for a division that includes biology, chemistry, kinesiology, and athletic training at Loras College, a small liberal arts college in Dubuque, Iowa.

Describe your career path from graduate school to your current position.

I applied for my current position right after my six-month meeting in the fall of 2007, interviewed and was hired in early 2008, defended in June 2008, and started at my current position in August. It was amazingly direct and probably lucky. I had considered doing a postdoc before applying for tenure-track small college jobs, but decided to try for this one anyway.

What made you decide to pursue a PhD with CMB at UW-Madison?

The program was highly ranked, it was in a great size town in the midwest, where I preferred to be, and I loved that there were so many different types of research labs to choose from since I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to research going into graduate school.

What do you like best and what do you find challenging about your current job?

I love the challenge and puzzle of trying to find the best way to help my students understand certain concepts in cell biology. I really enjoy getting to know them as people and genuinely enjoy spending time with them in class. The challenges are mostly finding time to do the grading, having more meetings scheduled in my week than I would like, and having to deal with the occasional academic dishonesty case.

What is your favorite story/memory from your time in CMB?

I remember the retreats at Devil’s Head but mostly I remember fondly hanging out with labmates at lunch at our hallway lunch table in between experiments or doing cell culture with the music blaring.

What is the most important lesson you have learned throughout your career?

Even when you’re a scientist, dealing appropriately with people is always the most important part of any job, and often the most challenging!

What advice would you give to current students who are specifically interested in a career path similar to yours?

Don’t assume you have to do a postdoc, read as much as you can about teaching pedagogy (CBE-LSE journal is a great place to start), and start looking for alternatives to lecturing – because all the educational research suggests that lecturing is not the most effective way to teach! (plus, it’s not the most fun way of teaching, even though I really love to lecture I find other teaching styles even more fun and better for the students). Also, this is a great article:

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