What it's like being a Biology PhD, according to Sarah OhlemacherSarah Ohlemacher | PhD. Student, Biology | Biology Department Sarah Ohlemacher is a PhD student working on stem cell research for the visual system in the lab of Dr. Jason Meyer in the Biology department at IUPUI.
What degree are you working toward?
PhD in Biology
Why did you choose graduate school at IUPUI?
As an undergraduate neuroscience student, I fell in love with developmental neurobiology my junior year. After meeting with my future boss as a prospective student, it was clear he was doing some amazing work differentiating stem cells into retinal cells. I knew I wanted to be a part of the research going on in his lab.
What has been your favorite academic accomplishment since you’ve been here?
I was recently selected for a fellowship supporting neurodegeneration research funded by Stark Neurosciences Research Institute and Eli Lilly. I’m thrilled that they saw promise in my work and decided to fund me. I can’t wait to work with two well-respected institutions to further my research.
What do you enjoy most about life in Indianapolis?
Indianapolis is a great city to live on a budget. Having relocated from Dallas, it’s nice that traffic is rarely an issue. I also enjoy the availability of outdoor activities like hiking and running.
As a graduate student, Indianapolis is a great city to live on a budget. Having relocated from Dallas, it’s nice that traffic is rarely an issue. I also enjoy the availability of outdoor activities like hiking and running. Eagle Creek Park is one of my favorite spots in the city.
Please provide some details about your work/research as a graduate student and/or any activities you are involved in.
My research involves making retinal ganglion cells from induced pluripotent stem cells. Retinal ganglion cells serve as the primary connection from the eye to the brain. When these cells die, that connection is lost, leading to blinding disorders such as glaucoma. I am interested in learning how these retinal ganglion cells develop so that we might better understand how to repair them when they degenerate.
Beyond my research, I enjoy sharing my love of science with others. I work with Central Indiana Science Outreach (CINSO) at the Indiana State Museum to organize an event called Taste of Science. The idea is to make science accessible to everyone. Our goal is to gather local researchers together with the community to discuss science.
I also work with undergraduates in the lab through programs like Project SEED and Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) to oversee promising students as they help with experiments and work on projects in the lab.
I am a mentor with Starfish Initiative, which pairs a college educated mentor with an academically gifted, economically disadvantaged high school student for up to 4 years. We do a variety of activities together including visiting local museums, performing basic science experiments, and job shadowing. It’s exciting to watch my scholar grow up and help her along the path to college.