My PI was almost Zion…but now she’s cooler!

Dr. Sanders is an amazing mentor and I have truly enjoyed getting to know more about her and her incredible research during these last three weeks. I first met Dr. Laurie Sanders when she gave a talk to the SPIRE Fellows program. I enjoyed her talk and was fascinated by her research and that is why I asked to work with her and her lab this summer, and hopefully for the next few years. You can read more about Dr. Sanders, her research, and her vast accomplishments here.

When Dr. Sanders was in high school, she desperately wanted to be a Duke basketball player. She was sadly unable to fulfill this dream because of an injury. She then continued her education at Cornell, where she fell in love with science. When she was about to graduate, one of her advisors told Dr. Sanders that her (very good) GPA would not be enough to get her into medical school. Because of this poor mentorship, Dr. Sanders is now a mentor for many undergraduates at Duke (like those in the SPIRE program) and believes that good mentorship and a solid support system are some of the most important factors in the undergraduate experience and beyond.

Dr. Sanders then went to the University of Buffalo, where she received her PhD in biochemistry and met her husband. She completed her post-doc at The University of Pittsburgh at the Pittsburgh Institute for Neurodegenerative Disease. This was where she started “thinking of the disease from a new and original angle, bringing innovation to the field” of Parkinson’s research, which she sees as her greatest accomplishment in her career. She has received the first Parkinson’s Action Network Postdoctoral Advocacy Prize and was also rewarded the William N. & Bernice E. Bumpas Foundation Innovation award. She works extensively with mitochondrial damage, repair, and dysfunction and its role in Parkinson’s Disease. Her colleagues commend her on her risky but extremely rewarding ideas that continue to advance our understanding of the most common neurodegenerative disease in the country.

Lucky for me and the future of science, Dr. Sanders eventually returned to her dream school and now works in the Bryan Research building with her amazing lab team. They continue to study the role of mitochondrial DNA damage in Parkinson’s Disease models in vitro. Outside of her remarkable discoveries, Dr. Sanders’ time and passion lies in her children. Dr. Sanders has three boys and is truly outnumbered at home. She loves that they keep her busy and she knows that balancing her ever advancing career and her growing boys will be her favorite challenge. Dr. Sanders had the potential to be a Duke basketball star, but her name will still go down in history (and on many published papers) and she has the potential to help millions. I’m certainly a fan!

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