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Alumni Profiles

MRC alumni pursue a wide range of academic and career paths after they leave the University. Click on the following names to learn more about each of the featured alumnus's endeavors, their experience with the MRC, and their advice for current MRC students.

Nathan Wood

What are your degrees? If you have future plans, what are they?

I majored in Chemical Engineering with a minor in Chemistry for my Bachelor's degree and continued with the SUGS program (within the College of Engineering) for a one-year Master's degree in Macromolecular Science and Engineering. Currently, I work as an Associate Scientist at BASF working on 3D printing materials. 

As of right now, I do not have any immediate future plans.  I do keep the thought of going back to graduate school for a PhD or MBA very close in the back of my mind, though.  

Besides research, what was your involvement in the community? Also, what was your favorite memory of the program?

During both of my years as part of MRC (serving as a Peer Advisor my second year) I was fairly involved in coordinating the IM soccer team for the community, possibly the greatest team MRC has ever seen on the field.

As far as my favorite memory of the program, a group of us really wanted to get good seats for the Michigan vs. Notre Dame for the "Under the Lights II" game where some camped out and other left in the wee hours of the morning of the game to wait in line.  Needless to say, after 8+ hours sitting in that line our group of friends got front row seats to the game.

What is something you learned while being in the community?

What I learned and ultimately think had the greatest impact on me during my time in college was by the group of people I surrounded myself with. With MRC, you are already off to a good start - nearly everyone in the community has similar interests and motivations.  After thinking through other activities or things that made an impression on me as a student (joining an engineering club, volunteering, research etc.), surrounding myself with people as or more drive than me was the most important.  My closest friends to this day come from those first two years I was part of MRC, and those people and time in the community really helped bring me to where I am today.

I also learned that the process for joining a research group is not as difficult or intimidating as many make it out to seem.  Professors and graduate students are regular people (albeit pretty smart people), and as long as you have confidence in yourself and express an interest/drive to work in their lab, there is a pretty good chance you will get that opportunity.

Any advice for current community members?

Your time in college really is the perfect time to try new things out.  If you think an art class or trying out for the Ultimate Frisbee team sounds interesting but you haven't done anything like it before, just do it! It doesn't have to be a permanent part of your routine forever. Don't not do something if you worried by what others think about it.


Samantha Sands

What are your degrees? 

I have a Bachelors of Science in Environmental Geology from the University of Michigan (Class of 2004). I have a Masters of Science in Museum Studies from the University of Colorado (Class of 2006). 

Besides research, what was your involvement in the community? What was your favorite memory?

I lived in MoJo for 2 years as part of UIR (UROP in Residence). My second year in MoJo I was a buddy for the freshman in UIR. I loved living in a place full of people who were also interested in research and being engaged in a Michigan community. I was a member of the Social Committee for UIR and we planned a ton of really fun events including a trip to Wiard's Haunted Orchards in the fall and a Mardi Gras party in the spring. I made some wonderful lifelong friendships through this program. 

What is something you learned while being in the community?

In the community I learned that  how you communicate about your research is just as important as the research itself! I worked alone on my research project for 4 years and spent hours learning about my research project. However, when I had to communicate about it at MRC events is when I learned that teaching others is the best way to learn.

Any advice for current community members/any additional comments you may have?

Try something new and different! When I enrolled at Michigan, I was a Chemical Engineering major. Since I thought I would be doing engineering for the rest of my life I chose a research project that was completely different- a geoarchaeology project with an emeritus professor at the natural history museum. Through this research project I fell in love with geology and museums, switched my major and my entire career plan and spent 4 years with one of the most amazing mentors and individuals, Dr. William Farrand. My participation in the MRC changed my entire life. 

Christine Curran

Christine Curran

Hometown: Houston, TX

Degree: University of Michigan, BS Chemical Engineering, 2010

Christine is currently a User Support Engineer at ExxonMobil. She describes a typical day: 

We at ExxonMobil are constantly looking for new technology solutions to “Take on the world’s toughest energy challenges.” The birth of computers revolutionized the oil industry to allow us to find, develop, and produce new assets throughout the world safely and efficiently.
I started with ExxonMobil as a User Support Engineer in our I.T. organization in August 2010. I support and consult with users globally, as distant as Australia and Indonesia, to model oil and gas facilities. As I take my early career milestone coursework (over 10 full weeks of training in Year 1!), I also help with software training for my new hire peers. It is something different every day from testing new products to walking users through a tough simulation. I really enjoy it so far, and look forward to where my career will take me!

Christine describes how MRC has benefited her: 

It sounds corny, but I truly discovered myself in the Michigan Research Community. Like many others, I joined MRC because I thought research would boost my med school application. Instead, the program opened a world of new fields and philosophies, and only in that crazy sea of possibility can you truly find your passion! I found I preferred the teamwork and “big picture” problem-solving of engineering to medicine. The MRC staff and my peers in the program (many at great med schools, law schools, and professions around the country) were so supportive during that first exploratory year. Remember: there are many paths to success, and it is ok to take a couple detours! (As long as you are detouring to class most of the time!)

Words of wisdom from Christine:

My dad always says, “Everything in moderation.” Four years ago, I would have said, “Yeah, yeah,” but our parents tend to be right sometimes, and balance is hugely important. The first-year it is inevitable that you will, at times, feel like a chicken running with your head-off. I want you to have the same great experience I had: learning all these new things, meeting many new people, and even FAILING sometimes (which can be very hard work!) Life truly is a marathon, not a race! Make time to rest your brain, body, and spirit. You will still have time to do the things that matter.

Christine passes on some advice: 

This is so hard! I love inspirational quotes. I think if I had to give the world only one piece of advice; however, it would be to respect others. I know, I just said life is a marathon, but like all races, marathons do end. It will be your character and not any worldly possession that remains. And THAT is the Michigan Difference I would like to show the world!

Adam John Brzezinski

Adam John Brzezinski

Hometown: Belleville, MI

Degree: University of Michigan, BSE Aerospace Engineering & Mechanical Engineering, 2005; MSE Mechanical Engineering, 2006; PhD Aerospace Engineering, 2011

Adam is currently a graduate student at the University of Michigan, studying Aerospace Engineering.  He describes a typical day:  

As a graduate student, I spend most of my day trying to solve research problems proposed by my advisor.  I typically divide my time between programming computer simulations (to develop hypotheses) and composing theoretical (proof-based) validation of these hypotheses.  I also work on a project with an industrial sponsor that is focused on developing embedded techniques for fault detection.

Adam shares how the MRC has benefited him:  

The MRC program benefited me in many ways, from helping me improve my time-management skills to introducing me to motivated individuals with very diverse backgrounds.  However, I think I benefited most from experiencing hands-on research at a high-quality University.  When I entered the University of Michigan, I was convinced that I wanted to be an astrophysicist, and I chose to work on a UROP project with a faculty member in that department.  However, I realized during my first year that I did not enjoy doing research in this field as much as I had thought.  During my second year in UROP, I chose instead to work as an engineer on the Solar Car team, which I enjoyed significantly more.  This experience, I believe, was a key factor in shaping my future academic and professional career.

Words of wisdom from Adam:  

I recommend that students have as many unique experiences as possible in all facets of their lives.  The University of Michigan, the city of Ann Arbor, and the people you meet every day offer unprecedented opportunities to enrich your lives.  Enjoy what you do, work hard, and never give up.

Barret Anderson

Barrett Anderson | Detroit, Michigan
University of Michigan, BS Biology, BA Japanese, 2005
Michigan State University, DO

Barrett is currently a surgery resident at the Detroit Medical Center. He describes a typical day:

I wake up early each morning and know that my day will be continuously busy. There is always work to be done and patients to see. It’s difficult to describe a “typical” day since one can never know what each day will bring in the hospital setting. What I can say is that my job is not quite like what you see on Grey’s Anatomy.

Barrett shares how the MRC has benefited him: 

The MRC program afforded me the opportunity to interact in a mature setting with professionals in the field. In my first year of college I was able to make important connections that would benefit me for years to come.

Words of wisdom from Barrett:

Keep an open mind and try things you may be unsure about career-wise. Do things that truly interest you so that your career ends up being something you love. You will learn more about yourself and may even find a new path that is a better fit.

Barrett passes on some advice: 

Never stop questioning.

Brian Rumao

Brian Rumao | Los Angeles, CA
University of Michigan, BSE and MSE Industrial and Operations Engineering, 2010

Brian is currently a Management Consultant at McKinsey & Company. He describes a typical day:   

What I love about this job is that there is no typical day. At the highest level, we help clients in a variety of industries solve their most pressing issues. As a member of the operations practice, my work focuses on delivering step-change improvement in our clients' operating and management systems, along with building client capabilities for sustained results. On a recent day, I spent the morning coaching a manufacturing supervisor on how to hold an effective shift huddle and communicate with his employees. In the afternoon, I had a one-on-one problem solving meeting with the client's executive VP of operations.

Brian describes how MRC has benefited him:

The MRC has been benefited me in too many ways to describe, as I stayed with the program as a student, as program board member, a peer advisor, and finally as a resident advisor. I always think about my first-year research project. I sat at the table with PhD students, post-docs, and an esteemed professor in electrical engineering. I didn't let my being the youngest and most inexperienced person in the room stop me from contributing to the team. My professor appreciated my abilities and thanked me for not hesitating to speak up. That attitude has served me well in my current job, where I work on a daily basis with highly tenured and experienced clients and colleagues.

Words of wisdom from Brian: 

College, and life in general, comes down a healthy balance. The next few years will quickly pass, so don't forget to keep some memories along the way.I have more words of wisdom in a book I wrote last year, "College Success Strategies," available here.

Brian passes on some advice: 

"I have never let my schooling interfere with my education" — Mark Twain

Lisa Thibodeau

Lisa Thibodeau | Clawson, MI
University of Michigan, BS, Concentration in Biology, 2007

Lisa is currently a pharmacy student at Wayne State University and a pharmacy intern at Target.  She describes a typical day:  

I am currently in my last year of pharmacy school. This year will consist of spending seven different 6 week long rotations at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, MI. On each rotation I will be getting hands-on experience in different aspects of hospital pharmacy practice. (Making IVs, calculating medication doses, rounding with medical teams, etc). At Target, I fill prescriptions, answer patient questions and counsel patients on how to take their medications safely and effectively.

Lisa shares how the MRC has benefited her:  

A way that MRC benefited my life was that gave me a lot of skills and experience in being a critical scientific thinker. This has really been an asset as I continue my education. Also, I met people in the program that I still keep in contact with to this day.

Words of wisdom from Lisa:  

Don’t let worrying about/planning for the future consume too much of your present. Don’t be afraid to take a class completely unrelated to your major.

Lisa passes on some advice:  Be truly present in whatever you do.