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School of Kinesiology
University of MinnesotaVIEW PROFILE
During her postdoctoral research fellowship at Mayo Clinic, Sarah Greising, Ph.D. (PHYS ’16), says she learned the value of collaboration. “It’s the norm at Mayo to pick up the phone if you hear that someone is working in an area you’re interested in and ask how you can collaborate.” In her laboratory at the University of Minnesota, she carries on that tradition. “You have to decide what kind of scientist you want to be — working in your own scientific world or realizing that the questions in the scientific community can’t be answered by you alone and that collaborative effort is better.” Dr. Greising recently was appointed as a McKnight Land-Grant Professor from the University of Minnesota, a program to strengthen and advance the careers of the most promising junior faculty members who are at the beginning stages of their professional careers and who have the potential to make significant contributions to their departments and scholarly fields.
“The best thing I can do for young female scientists is to keep working hard. They can’t aspire to be you if they don’t see you. I model good scientific behaviors and good work-life balance behaviors. I show them it’s possible. I model how to make it work by just doing it.”
I was an athlete growing up and was fascinated with how the body and muscles work. My undergraduate degree from Winona State University is in athletic training. I worked as a certified athletic trainer in college. I completed my master’s degree program in health and human performance at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, and Ph.D. program in rehabilitation science at the University of Minnesota.
I interviewed broadly for a postdoctoral fellowship program in physiology and biomedical engineering. Gary Sieck, Ph.D. (ANES ’90; Division of Physiology and Biomedical Engineering), and Carlos Mantilla, M.D., Ph.D. (I1 ’95, ANES ’98, PAIN ’01, NSCI ’03; chair, Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine), painted a picture of the lab at Mayo Clinic as a collaborative environment that is supportive of trainees. It seemed like the right place for me to be. After I was on board in the lab, I truly felt their support in developing trainees.
In the four years I was at Mayo, I felt supported in what I wanted to accomplish. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. My mentors, Drs. Sieck and Mantilla, helped me achieve my particular goals and develop as a scientist. I found my scientific philosophy at Mayo.
It was welcoming. Everyone I interacted with made me feel like it was a place where I could be productive and supported.
Drs. Sieck and Mantilla. I’ve collaborated with them on a handful of projects since I left Mayo. We have a great relationship. When I told them I’d received a McKnight Land-Grant Professor award at the University of Minnesota, they were as excited as I was.
To collaborate. I’ve been at a number of institutions, and the walls for collaboration at Mayo are a lot shorter. Collaborating is a no-brainer. You can reach out to anyone and inquire about working together. It’s not always that simple at other places.
In my lab, I model that approach and promote collaboration. I learned at Mayo that the collective is better than the individual. You have to decide what kind of scientist you want to be — working in your own scientific world or realizing that the questions in the scientific community can’t be answered by you alone and that collaborative effort is better. I expect those in my lab to be open to collaboration.
I’m most proud of two awards I’ve received. The McKnight Land-Grant Professorship from the University of Minnesota, which is an endowed award for younger faculty to support them as they go up for promotion. And the Rorie Award from the Mayo Clinic Department of Anesthesiology for excellence in laboratory-based research by an anesthesia resident or fellow.
I specifically sought out the mentors I had at Mayo, and they happened to be at Mayo Clinic. That said, I’m very fortunate to have been at Mayo Clinic and think highly of Mayo. In addition to the science I learned, I also had non-science opportunities that helped me gain great skills outside of fundamental science. Those include helping to coordinate the Young Investigators Symposium at Mayo and serving as president of the Mayo Research Fellows’ Association.
I’m an assistant professor of exercise physiology in the School of Kinesiology at the University of Minnesota and director of the Skeletal Muscle Plasticity and Regeneration Laboratory.
My research interests and long-term scientific goals of the lab revolve around the plasticity and regeneration of skeletal muscle in efforts to mitigate the devastating functional limitations of limb salvage and traumatic muscle injuries. Our lab examines the musculoskeletal and neuromuscular systems to understand and develop effective strategies to address the deleterious effects of complex traumatic muscle injuries, especially volumetric muscle loss.
In short, I’m interested in skeletal muscle function, repair and regeneration. My work has focused on injury such as traumatic orthopedic injury from blasts, car accidents, farming accidents and traumatic events. Those injuries don’t follow the natural pattern of what skeletal muscle does. In normal injuries, the muscle knows what to do to recover. In these large-scale injuries, that’s not the case. Patients experience long-term functional impairment. I try to understand why skeletal muscle doesn’t follow the normal physiology in those cases.
My work spans the translational pipeline, small and large animal work, and collaboration with physician-scientists.
I’m principal investigator on four grants and associate investigator on two others. My work is funded through the Department of Defense. After I completed my fellowship at Mayo, I took a research position at the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research in San Antonio, Texas. Some of my work was founded there. The military has supported my research because of the prevalence of blast injuries.
My training set me up for this part of my life. My mentors modeled how to make it all work. At the University of Minnesota, I have more teaching responsibility, which I enjoy. I learn from the graduate students I teach as much as they learn from me.
Make sure you reach out to people for potential collaboration and to learn about jobs outside of academic medicine — regulatory affairs, grant management, etc. People are generally happy to talk to you about their jobs and give you insights you can’t get from reading about those jobs.
Also, be creative. The structure for fellows and other trainees at Mayo supports those who are creative. There are a lot of opportunities if you put yourself in the right spot to take advantage of them. I emphasize to my lab team to be creative; we can figure out ways to support small projects if we’re creative.
The best thing I can do for young female scientists is to keep working hard. They can’t aspire to be you if they don’t see you. I model good scientific behaviors and good work-life balance behaviors. I show them it’s possible. I model how to make it work by just doing it.
To keep doing good science, support my students and promote and inspire them to do good science so they can advance and do great things after they’re done in my lab.
I’m a big scheduler. I try to end the work day by 6:30 p.m. It works more or less but is more of a fit than a balance.
I’m an avid runner. Minneapolis offers great opportunities for running. I’ve also taken up hiking.
I was a figure skater and competed at the national level. I also taught figure skating for a long time; it helped pay for college. I skated from age 7 to 19. I learned perseverance, hard work and goal-setting. If things don’t go right in skating, you have to look inward, figure out what’s happening and make adjustments.
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