Alumni Profiles

Dordt biology alumni hold a wide variety of occupations, including genomic researcher, nurse in a First Nations community, postdoctoral fellow, and hematologist/oncologist

Paige Roos

Paige Roos ('13) does genomics research for DuPont Industrial Biosciences. Paige and her husband, Kody, live in Altoona, Iowa with their son.

Q: What is your current occupation?

I am a research assistant for DuPont Industrial Biosciences. This company is based out of Palo Alto, CA but I actually work at the DuPont Pioneer facility in Johnston, IA as an embedded employee.

I work in the Genomics Lab and prepare DNA or RNA for sequencing. I do a wide variety of applications and protocols such as isolating RNA from various bacterial or fungal samples, preparing libraries for RNA and DNA sequencing and performing data quality checks upon sequencing completion.

Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

The most rewarding part of my job is actually knowing and seeing that my work has an impact! Data that I generate is used to verify that a product is what we believe it is, or to find a better way method of producing our products, which is very beneficial to the company. 

Q: How did Dordt impact your formation as a person?

Dordt gave me confidence in myself and my abilities. I had always been a good student, but never really knew what my passion was in all my studies. When I started taking biology classes, I was drawn in. I found that I loved working with things that our physical eyes could not see (molecular biology). The encouragement and guidance of my professors helped me gain confidence in myself and in my work so that I could see a future for myself within this line of work.

My professors helped me find my passion and worked with me to help me learn as much as possible and to gain the teaching skills I would need once I entered the workforce.

My experiences at Dordt grounded my faith and gave me the foundation to build on once I graduated. It is so easy to fall into thinking, “I can do everything on my own, every decision I make, everything I do is all because I made it happen.” College changed that. I was challenged through my studies and relationships, and I got to a point that you just have to give it ALL up to God, otherwise school and my personal relationships and time would just become overwhelming.

Q: Did you feel well prepared for life after college?

Yes I did! The classes that I took provided me with a good knowledge and skill groundwork that was very beneficial when I started my job. Though there was still a significant amount of on-job training in learning how the lab worked and learning specific protocols pertaining to my job, I was confident that I had the skill set to accomplish what needed to be done. My previous experience in the labs at Dordt (whether for classes or summer research) was extremely helpful in my feeling confident and competent in the lab setting.

 

Heather Kooiman

Heather Kooiman ('07) works with First Nations people in Canada.

Q. What did you do after graduating from Dordt?

A. I spent the first summer working for Feed the Children Canada (FTC), now Speroway. I ran a day camp for children and youth on the First Nations reserve of Mishkeegogamang and Big Trout Lake (Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug) in Northern Ontario.

I eventually followed my plan to work overseas, spending six months in Uganda working with an NGO (non-governmental organization) called Save the Mothers. The organization’s aim was to reduce maternal mortality by offering a master’s in public health leadership. The students, who were members of parliament, educators, principals, doctors, nurses, social workers, journalists, and religious leaders, went on to change government policy, create educational materials for schools, develop radio programs, write newspaper articles, and work with social and health services.

That experience made me decide to go into nursing. In 2011, I spent four months working in a native community health clinic. I also conducted research on youth well-being in the community. Everything I have done since has revolved around working with First Nations people. My experience in Mishkeegogamang changed my life. When I had to decide where to do my nursing placement, I chose an Aboriginal community, despite my original desire to travel the world.

Q. What are your hopes for your work with the First Nation people?

A. I want to improve the health of people in native communities and build relationships with them. I think that is key to understanding each other so that we can share and learn from each other. I plan to continue to work as a nurse or to teach nursing in northern Canada, although I dream of working for a nonprofit organization that would help First Nations people see their potential in life and be able to embrace their culture while following Jesus.

 

Eric Van Otterloo

Eric Van Otterloo ('05) works in the department of craniofacial biology at the University of Colorado, Anschutz Medical Campus. He, his wife, Jen, and their daughter live in Colorado.

Q. What did you do after graduating from Dordt?

A.  Eric worked as a research assistant at the University of Mississippi Medical Center for a year following graduation. Then he earned his Ph.D. in Anatomy and Cell Biology from the University of Iowa. As part of his Ph.D. program in developmental biology, he examined the genetic connection between normal pigment production in zebra fish and melanoma cells. He thinks that Dordt's biology program prepared him well for graduate school, and the smaller class sizes helped him get the type of educational experience that he needed.

"Due to the small class size, professors are able to spend more time on each student, ensuring a higher quality of education," Eric said. "The professors laid an excellent foundation for me to build upon in my graduate work."

Today Eric works in the lab of Trevor Williams of the University of Colorado studying craniofacial development. "The gist of my project will be knocking out a family of transcription factors in a tissue specific manner in the face-trying to isolate which specific tissues these transcription factors are contributing to proper facial development," said Eric.

Q. What is one thing you appreciate about your time at Dordt?

A. Even though he graduated from Dordt few years ago, he continues to value the strong sense of community he found here, noting that it was one of the things that drew him to the college in the first place. "It is great knowing so many of your fellow students,” said Eric. “Unlike in a bigger school, you are not lost in the crowd."

 

Jonathan Bleeker

John Bleeker, M.D. ('01) lives in Sioux Falls, SD with his wife, Tracy, and their three children. Following his graduation from Dordt, he received his M.D. degree from the University of Iowa in 2005. Subsequently, he spent 4 years doing internal medicine residency at the University of Virginia and 3 years in a hematology/oncology fellowship at Mayo Clinic.

Q: What is your current occupation?

I am currently working as a hematologist/oncologist at the Sanford Cancer Center in Sioux Falls South Dakota. This position combines my long-standing interest in science with the ability to meaningfully impact the lives of those we care for.  In oncology, we get to know our patients very well as they walk through a very difficult time and develop deep, meaningful relationships with them while hopefully improving their outcomes with our treatment.

Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of your job? What aspect do you find to be most challenging?

Being an oncologist is very rewarding. Our patients place an enormous amount of trust in their cancer team during an extremely scary time in their lives. To be given this trust and to be able to work with a team of experts to try to bring healing to these patients makes this an incredibly meaningful career.

The field of cancer medicine is evolving so rapidly that it is exciting but also very challenging in that it is becoming more and more difficult to stay current with the changes that are taking place in the field. Another significant challenge inherent to the practice of oncology is caring for patients with a terminal diagnosis and helping them and their loved ones cope with the issues that come along with their end-of-life experiences.

Q: What was the most significant thing you remember about your time at Dordt College?

I had multiple professors at Dordt who were instrumental in forming my academic skills to prepare me for medical training. Given the small sizes of my classes, professors were always very approachable and willing to work with students. I have often shared with undergraduates and medical students that medical knowledge is not necessarily conceptually difficult, but the difficulty in medical training is the vast amount of knowledge that needs to be retained. My experience at Dordt and the rigorous academic experiences in the biology department helped prepare me with the tools and work ethic I needed to be able to master these concepts in medical school and beyond.

Q: Did you feel well prepared for life after college?

Dordt absolutely prepared me academically for medical school as above and also gave me the tools to think critically about the larger issues that we face every day in the medical profession—questions regarding medical ethics, the problem of suffering, what constitutes a "good death", etc.

Q: What advice do you have for current Dordt students who are interested in working in similar areas?

I always share with those interested in becoming physicians that I believe to do this this job well, you need to have both a passion for the science and a passion for helping others. If you have a passion for one or the other, there are many roles that can help you fulfill that passion, but being a physician uniquely combines these two aspects and to be successful, I believe that you need to have a passion for both the science underlying the practice of medicine as well as the art of dealing with patients in a respectful, compassionate fashion that promotes healing.