Katie (Leisen) Spring ’15 knows it’s all about finding ways to set yourself apart.

As an undergraduate biology student, Spring applied for a summer undergraduate research opportunity, which enabled her to work at Mayo Clinic.

That foot in the door led to another. She inquired with a doctor at the Mayo Clinic about volunteering in a lab in the Anesthesia Department where Alzheimer’s research was being done. This inquiry developed into an internship her senior year.

Now working for the Mayo Clinic full time, Spring has returned to Saint Mary’s to earn a master’s in Business Administration because she knows it will give her an edge as her career advances.

“There is such a demand, from my perspective, for students to have the combination of business and science,” she said. “The combination is so rare. I think it would definitely set students apart.”

Spring hopes to continue working in the science community, but is planning for a future that could someday include an administrative role such as an operations manager of a research department.

Finding Saint Mary’s fully online M.B.A. program was a perfect fit for her hectic schedule.

“I am really enjoying the different way of thinking,” she said. “The principles can be applied directly to life: how to manage finances, how to set up spreadsheets. It’s all very useful information. The courses are very condensed, so there’s a lot of information but it’s totally doable. I’m a fan of lifelong learning.”

Spring said it’s been an adjustment for her; she’s had to change her way of thinking because science and business are often complete opposites. Yet, she knows that they are frequently connected.

“When I started my current job at the Mayo Clinic, I was the very first hire in this position,” she said. “We are targeting genes in a genome to make them resistant to HIV. I am a research technologist, so I am responsible for many experiments in the labs but I also do quite a bit of laboratory management, like ordering supplies and doing inventory management. I manage finances, making sure we aren’t over-spending. That’s what got me interested in business.”

In March, Spring was able to share her experience and advice with students during a job fair in the Twin Cities area.

She stressed that students need to find ways to set themselves apart. “I really believe my internship helped me get my position,” she said. “Getting your foot in the door helps so much. All research investigators are willing to take on people they don’t have to pay. Mainly it’s about getting your name out there. Networking is the biggest thing I pushed.”

Spring also encourages students at Saint Mary’s to talk to Mike Hagarty from the Career Services and Internships Office. “He is so helpful and genuinely cares, and that’s awesome. I really think he can do a lot to help students. When I was doing my internship at the Mayo Clinic, he visited me and made time to see how it was going. I like the community feeling I got from Saint Mary’s, which is why I chose to do my master’s through Saint Mary’s too.”

Regardless of where her career path takes her, Spring plans to continue working in science.

“There are so many options out there, and I’m learning what those are,” she said. “But I really enjoy science, the ever-changing environment and the fact that no two days are ever the same. I love the dynamic atmosphere. I like the collaboration. I fell in love with science when I was really little, and at Saint Mary’s, with the uncommon emphasis on laboratory work, I fell in love with research.”

And, she still hopes her efforts are part of a collaboration that can one day find a cure and save lives.

“That’s everybody’s hope,” she said. “Everything you do is contributing in some way. I am very passionate about helping people and I believe that I’m doing so through research.”

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