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Department of Nutrition & Exercise Physiology
University of MissouriVIEW PROFILE
When Jacqueline Limberg, Ph.D. (ANES ’16), received the Mayo Clinic Alumni Association Edward C. Kendall Award for Meritorious Research in 2016, she said, “I want to be an example of a successful woman researcher who has a family and healthy life balance. Typically, women with families aren’t well represented in large research universities. In higher-level graduate courses, few full-time research faculty are women. We need women role models in the classroom and in labs.” In the several years since then, Dr. Limberg has expanded her family from two to three children, established a lab at the University of Missouri, received the Shih-Chun Wang Young Investigator Award from the American Physiological Society and received a prestigious National Institutes of Health R01 grant. Dr. Limberg, the first in her family to go to college, credits mentors with showing her the way and keeping her on course on her pathway to success.
“After a trip to Mayo Clinic, I realized I could not go anywhere besides Mayo. I called my husband and said, ‘I have to go here. It’s too great of a place.'”
I fell in love with science when a science teacher in sixth grade challenged me and forced me to think independently. I learned to ask a question and try to answer it myself.
My interest in a career in scientific research, on the other hand, was a windy road. I was premed in college but didn’t feel like it was a good fit for me. I discovered research during my junior year at Marquette University, when I participated in a new summer undergraduate research program. It was the best summer I ever had. I worked with Dr. Alex Ng studying muscle fatigue in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). My friend’s mom has MS, and I saw how fatigue affected her life. I became fascinated with research and the scientific process, and changed my plan for my senior year.
During my senior year, I realized that there’s a science behind exercise. However, I didn’t have any of the necessary prerequisite coursework to get into an exercise physiology graduate program. I was the first person in my family to go to college, much less graduate school, so I didn’t have the guidance that’s helpful to have in the course of an academic career in science.
I decided to go to a small school to get a master’s degree and the coursework I needed to pursue a Ph.D. Three months into that program, I realized that I needed to be at a larger research institution to pursue the work I was passionate about. I immediately contacted Dr. Ng for advice. He helped me get on the path I needed to be on. It was an important stepping stone and taught me the importance of asking for help. With assistance from Dr. Ng, I eventually joined the kinesiology Ph.D. program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
My Ph.D. adviser in the Department of Kinesiology at Wisconsin was Bill Schrage, Ph.D. Dr. Schrage completed his postdoctoral fellowship with Mayo Clinic’s Michael Joyner, M.D. (ANES ’92). It was Bill who encouraged me to interview at Mayo. After a trip to Mayo Clinic, I realized I could not go anywhere besides Mayo. I called my husband and said, “I have to go here. It’s too great of a place.”
The resources are great. Mayo does cutting-edge research. I came to Mayo as part of one of their NIH T32 Postdoctoral Research Fellowship programs. It was clear during my interview the importance of my growth as a scientist, not just my project. There’s an investment in training, people and resources.
Dr. Joyner, of course. Also Tim Curry, M.D., Ph.D. (ANES ’05, Mayo Clinic Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine), Michael D. Jensen, M.D. (I ’82, ENDO ’85, Mayo Clinic Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, & Metabolism), and Virend Somers, M.D., Ph.D. (HYT ’99, Mayo Clinic Division of Preventive Cardiology).
Mentors treat the whole person. As an undergrad, I was invited along with the entire lab to Dr. Ng’s house for dinner to celebrate the end of the semester. At the time, that seemed weird to me because I wasn’t steeped in the world of academia. My mentors had incredible mentors who have paved their way. Any time I’ve veered off course, my mentors have been with me to steer me back. I now similarly strive to be there for my students and mentees.
Always collaborate. From day one, I saw that Mayo Clinic was about team science. Interesting projects come about through internal and external collaboration. I continue to collaborate with individuals I’ve met at Mayo, and Dr. Somers is a consultant on my recent NIH R01.
I have a bit of imposter syndrome because I didn’t train at Mayo in the tertiary care it’s known for. But when people see Mayo Clinic on my CV, it catches their eye. Having trained in Dr. Joyner’s lab means a lot too. He’s world-renowned for his innovative research and exceptional mentorship
Any time you transition to a new place or a new role, the first couple of months are really hard and you feel like an imposter. You learn to manage your time and find your place. Last summer, I got involved with the National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity’s Faculty Success Program, and it’s really helped me transition from trainee to mentor.
Take advantage of your mentor’s expertise in science and career progression. Network. Meet with Ph.D.s at other universities, go to others’ posters. When you attend conferences, set up with people to talk to. Ask your mentors for networking help. Dr. Schrage was always willing to put me in touch with leaders in the field. Now, those people I’ve met through the years have become my close colleagues and friends. I now do that for my students.
I study how the nervous system controls blood flow and blood pressure during low oxygen (hypoxia). The model of hypoxia that we use (intermittent hypoxia) is similar to that seen in patients with sleep apnea. This model has been shown to increase blood pressure. In experiments, however, we found that’s true in men but, in women, blood pressure decreases. As a result, young women with sleep apnea may not develop high blood pressure. Because fewer women have sleep apnea, this correlation has been understudied. We don’t know much about sleep apnea and cardiovascular disease in women. That’s the focus of my research. How and why is it different in women? How does the blood pressure response change as the disease progresses, as you gain weight and as you go through menopause?
I’m grateful to my physician collaborators at the University of Missouri and including Dr. Somers at Mayo Clinic. They help me make sure what I’m doing will be translational to patients.
To keep pushing this rock up the hill. I identified a gap in the knowledge, so my goal for the next five years is to fill that gap.
My kids are 6, 4 and 2, so my free time is spent with my kids. Right now, our highlight is riding bikes. Although Missouri is a lot warmer than what we were accustomed to in Minnesota, we still enjoy being outdoors.
I have an NIH R01 grant and three kids. Many people think you can’t achieve that and be a parent, but you can. I was shocked that I got the grant, but it’s because of the mentoring I’ve had throughout my career and the support I have at the University of Missouri.
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