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A Match Made in Heaven

December 6, 2017

Portrait of Katie Santo

Portrait of Katie Santo
Photo by Matthew Weber, CLAgency student

Senior Katie Santo has had an interesting path leading up to her undergraduate career. Originally from Pennsylvania, Katie attended culinary school after graduating from high school. She followed her passion for cooking to the Breakers Resort in Palm Beach, Florida. Working in the high-speed environment of resort cooking, Katie was involved in cold prep and event cooking, often making food for more than a thousand guests at once. “It was a great experience, but I soon realized it was not for me,” she says.

Discovering her Calling

Katie always had an interest in mathematics but was unsure of what career path to take. Through a community college at home, she took a statistics class and immediately fell in love with it. “Statistics showed me where and how I could apply math,” she says. While visiting friends in Minneapolis, Katie toured the University of Minnesota and instantly knew she wanted to attend here. 

Now in her last semester as an undergraduate, Katie speaks highly of her experience in the statistics department. She notes how supportive the faculty are and how genuinely interested they are in seeing their students succeed. Through the relationships she built with her professors, Katie landed an internship with Be the Match in downtown Minneapolis. She began the internship this past June and will continue working there through November. 

Be the Match is a last-resort option for people with leukemia or lymphoma. The organization has 16 million people willing to donate bone marrow in their system and matches donors with patients for marrow transplants. 

Helping Behind the Scenes

Working in Be the Match’s observational study department, Katie’s role as a biostatistician intern involved many different duties. She learned about the matching process and how the company can improve its overall efficiency. Katie also observed the outcomes of patients who had completed the transplant process, such as their side effects and overall health. Her main project looked at pains and toxicities donors had after the transplant process. 

“My main takeaways from this internship were to not be afraid to take initiative and ask questions,” she says. Her research and knowledge helped show potential donors the safety of the marrow donation process, demonstrating how transplants do not cause problems for donors later in their lives.

“An internship like this is usually for graduate students, so I feel incredibly fortunate to have gotten it,” Katie says. Using the skills and knowledge she has developed over her undergraduate career, she was able to help Be the Match improve their organization and mission. 

Combining Passions and the Future

Because of this opportunity, she feels well-equipped for her future endeavors. As a statistics major with a minor in psychology, Katie hopes to attend graduate school for biostatistics. She is passionate about mental health, and her dream job would be one that combines both statistics and psychology. 

“I’d love to work in a psychology lab that uses statistics to analyze data,” Katie says. “It’s important to be passionate about the data and what it means in the world. I think passion is what drives people to be successful.” Her experience combined with her passion for statistics has put her on a path to success for the future. Katie has accepted a full-time statistical programmer analyst position within the Health Services department at Mayo Clinic. She will either be working in computational genomics, the cancer center, or the Alzheimer’s department. Katie will be doing programming, data management, statistical analysis, and project workflow management. “I start in January and cannot wait!” Katie says. 

This story was written by an undergraduate student account executive in CLAgency. Meet the team.