Marquette University, B.S. 2008
Amy and her husband Cameron in front of Joan of Arc Chapel
I graduated from Marquette in 2008 with a Bachelors of Science in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and French. Since then, my Marquette education has given me various career opportunities. In 2008, I began working as an Operations Specialist I at Abbott Molecular in Des Plaines, IL. In this position, I experienced the industry side of science, which was very different compared to the academic setting I was accustomed to at Marquette. I knew that I had wanted an industry experience to complement my academic training, and Abbott Molecular was a terrific place to learn these aspects. My position was within the manufacturing department, where I would process and test DNA samples for contamination before allowing them to continue to be manufactured into FISH probes for various oncology and genetic testing research. I worked on a manufacturing and R & D team tasked with updating a protocol to more efficiently and precisely process the products. I now appreciate the rigorous standards that go into producing a safe, reliable product, and I am proud to have been part of a company that makes products that people depend on for their health.
After approximately one year at Abbott Molecular, I moved to Indiana to begin my career as a Research Technician and Laboratory Manager for Dr. Zachary Schafer at the University of Notre Dame. With the understanding that normal cells require matrix attachment to survive, the lab researches how breast cancer cells can survive outside this natural niche. We mimic this detached environment by plating breast cancer cells over a chemical that forces the cells to grow in suspension. We then study the signaling and metabolic pathways that the breast cancer cells utilize and/or modify in order to promote their survival. The lab’s goal is to contribute to the understanding of breast cancer cell survival, which could ultimately reveal mechanisms that may be targeted through the development of novel and more effective chemotherapeutics. My research project focuses on how Ras signaling, a pathway activated in breast cancer cells, is able to assist cellular survival even outside its normal environment. I am working to elucidate the downstream targets, particularly the role of SGK-1, used by Ras to allow survival in detachment. I have also had the opportunity to collaborate with researchers at Harvard University on a separate project, which has recently been published in the August issue of The Journal of Clinical Investigation. I really enjoy the various day-to-day activities that my job allows me. I get a great balance of administrative work through managing orders and supplies, teaching work through training undergraduate students, and scientific work through my research experiments. I am proud to say that I have enjoyed going to work every day for the past three years. I’m lucky to have yet another job where I know that my work matters to people, particularly those who suffer with breast cancer.
Just as my Marquette experience afforded me great opportunities in my career, it also provided me wonderful personal experiences as well. I met my husband, Cameron Leliaert (BSME ’09), freshman year and we were married in June 2009. In July 2012, we were blessed with the birth of our first child, Samuel. Although I work at the University of Notre Dame, we are still proud Marquette basketball fans (and my lab knows it)! We enjoy visiting Milwaukee as often as possible. I was also lucky enough to meet some of my best friends at Marquette, and I am fortunate to have remained friends with Dr. Allison Abbott, with whom I did my undergraduate research for while at Marquette. I truly believe that I wouldn’t have had my excellent career experiences without my Marquette education, and in particular my research experience with Dr. Abbott. I am blessed with a fantastic career and personal successes, and am forever grateful for these blessings which my Marquette education has helped provide me.