As a first-year Doctor of Physical Therapy candidate at Cleveland State University, Ksenia Klue ’18 is already reaching out to her professors, asking them questions about their research, and looking for ways she can be more involved—a move that surprises her classmates coming from different undergraduate experiences.
“The work that I was given at Wooster prepared me for grad school. I’m used to the smaller classroom, and close interactions and relationships with professors,” said Klue, who knew Wooster was the right fit for her before she visited any other schools. A volleyball player, she wanted to find a school where she’d be happy even while not playing and where her experiences would set her up for graduate school. “As a team we valued academics and studying as much as succeeding on the court,” she said. “I was able to build relationships with coaches and make connections with faculty members no matter what I need help with.”
Klue found an immediate connection with her first-year seminar professor Amy Jo Stavnezer, chair of neuroscience. Previously interested in pre-medicine, Klue credits Stavnezer for allowing her to “discover neuro,” she said. “I still remember her drawing a neuron on the board—the most fundamental unit in neuroscience—and that was it. I never looked back.” Though she only had classes with Stavnezer in her first and final years at Wooster, Klue relied on her for guidance. “I’m very thankful that our relationship didn’t end after freshman year. There’s a variety in the way I think as a neuroscientist that I can’t imagine not having.”
As a neuroscience major, Klue worked with Seth Kelly, assistant professor in biology and neuroscience, on her Independent Study, studying gene expression following sleep deprivation. After mechanically depriving fruit flies of sleep, they looked at expression alterations in the histone proteins present in DNA. “We aimed to see how known disruption of cardiac rhythms, hormonal imbalances, and the cognitive changes that happen following sleep deprivation were present at the molecular level,” she said. “It was an honor working with Dr. Kelly because he pushed you to learn more. Seeing his determination and knowing that my success was his success, I did everything I could to keep the project moving forward.” Though their results were preliminary, Klue hopes future students will pick up the research where she left off. “I really loved that it was independent, but you learn so much from having a mentor and your lab mates. You don’t experience that level of growth from just being in a classroom day to day. Having the knowledge of the research process in general helps me to see myself doing research in the future.” Though she’s still exploring the different aspects of physical therapy, Klue could see herself combining clinical work with research in the field. “Without that experience, I wouldn’t be contacting professors about helping in their labs to gain experience that way,” she said. “My classmates don’t fully understand my interest in research because they haven’t done it. You have to experience it to know how rewarding it is.”
Collaborating on research with faculty at Wooster gave Klue the confidence to contact faculty at Cleveland State who can act as mentors to her and also to find mentors in other settings. “Working with Dr. Kelly for I.S. really made me thankful and want to reach out for mentorship,” she said. As a PT coach at Cleveland Volleyball Company for a preventative physical therapy training program she’s connected with a third-year grad student and a graduate of CSU’s PT program. “They might not consider themselves mentors formally, but to me they are because they went through what I’m going through. I know I’ll learn from them even in small ways,” she said. “If I didn’t have the relationships that I built through years at Wooster, I wouldn’t be comfortable reaching out, speaking up. Now I know research is a process. If something goes wrong, you have that mentor. You have a team of people to rely on and the knowledge that you all bring together.” Even after graduation Klue continues to maintain her relationship with Stavnezer and Kelly, “I still consider them mentors no matter what I’m doing in life.”