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Northwestern student on science, music, and taking opportunities

By Written by Jessica Thomas on Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Science equipment close up

Elizabeth Donaldson, junior biology major at the University of Northwestern — St. Paul, is a hardworking student, a musician, and most importantly, a wonderful person. She is currently working towards a rather unique career — clinical pharmacy. "I started out as a nursing major," Donaldson explained. "I took biology my first semester and I loved it, but after shadowing some nurses I began to realize that I wanted to do something more diagnostic. I like to understand the physiology behind clinical care; a lot of nursing focuses on patient interaction and patient care, but I wanted to delve a little deeper into the mechanisms of chemistry and physiology."

One may wonder what exactly it means to be a clinical pharmacist (CP). "When you think about pharmacy, most people usually think of a retail pharmacist that you would see at a drugstore, but a clinical pharmacist works more directly with patients and medical care teams. In surgery, a CP often advises doctors and can be involved in clinical trials. They usually work in the hospital setting." However, before Donaldson has the opportunity to pursue such an interesting career, she must first finish several more years of school. "I'll need a doctoral degree after the bachelor's in biology," she said. "My top choice right now is the University of Minnesota because their Doctorate of Pharmacy program is number 2 in the nation."

portrait of Elizabeth Donaldson

Donaldson has done extensive work outside of the classroom in pursuing her future career as well. The three main things that she has done in this area are research at UNW, an internship in Chicago, and volunteering. "I am a student researcher here at Northwestern with Dr. Simat," Donaldson said. "His research focuses on the effects of methylmercury chloride on prenatal development, which is how offspring develop before birth. We know that mercury can cause defects in children if they are exposed before birth, but we are trying to figure out more about that process. This does involve some biochemistry, which is related to what I want to do." Along with this research, her genetic research internship was a huge opportunity. "I got to learn how to conduct many different genetic research techniques and a lot of genetic analysis," she explained. "It taught me how to look at a huge data set and produce publishable results." She added, "One of the most valuable things I've done was volunteering at the hematology and oncology clinic at the Children's Hospital in Minneapolis. The staff at Children's is so good at explaining what goes into their role at the hospital because they know many volunteers are seeking a career in medicine."

Science is not the only department at UNW that Donaldson is involved in; she is also the vice president of Northwestern Choir and has been singing in it for two years. "I love music, and it's awesome for me, especially as a science major, to have that creative outlet," she said. "Many choir members are music majors, and I'm a biology major, but we all have an amazing community there." Additionally, she is a ministry partner in the Phileo 1 hall of Hartill and has been enjoying that role as well. "It's a good way to get connected with some of the underclassmen. As a student, especially a science student, it's easy to get caught up in studies, but this is a great way for me to make sure I'm taking time to build relationships and pour into people as well as focusing on my studies."

As a final note, and a message to students at UNW, Donaldson wants to encourage everyone to not take their time at school for granted. "It's easy to find things we don't like about Northwestern or focus on certain things, but we have a lot of opportunities, and I try to take as many opportunities as I can, even though it can be difficult because we're busy and have to prioritize," Donaldson said. "For example, I still have relationships with professors I've only taken a couple classes with, like Dr. Den Hartog and Dr. Jones, because I love their classes and teaching style and they've helped me grow so much even in those one or two classes. It's important to broaden your horizons and take advantage of the opportunities you have here without being too focused or critical."

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