Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Sarah Fankhauser

Sarah Fankhauser
Postdoctoral Fellow at Emory University

Article 08_C_pic_Fankhauser_Sarah_web.pngA 2007 graduate of the School of Biology, Dr. Fankhauser is currently a post-doctoral fellow at Emory University in the cystic fibrosis division. Prior to this she was a teaching fellow at Harvard University and a graduate student in the microbiology and immunobiology department. She received her Ph.D. immunology and microbiology from Harvard in 2013. Her work focused on the immune response to intracellular bacterial pathogens. She is also the president of the Journal of Emerging Investigators and current Executive Director.

FALL 2014

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We asked Dr. Fankhauser to reminisce on her experiences in Biology while an undergraduate at Georgia Tech.

My favorite biology professors were Nael McCarty (currently at Emory now), Marc Weissburg and Thomas DiChristina.  What all of these professors had in common is that they really challenged their students.  These professors did not expect you to read and regurgitate a text book (I don’t even think they used textbooks!), instead they used current literature and chalk talks to teach the class. These professors definitely prepared me for graduate school and to start a career in research.  

My most memorable experience came when I did undergraduate research. I started my sophomore year thinking it would look good on my application to medical school but immediately fell in love with the intellectual and creative freedom that research demands.  It completely changed my mind about going to medical school and instead I ended up applying to graduate schools.

The most important lesson I’ve learned is that intelligence does not directly correlate to success, but hard work does.  As any Tech student knows, Tech is challenging! The classes are hard, the work load is large and sometimes it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  But powering through the hard parts and buckling down and working your butt off pays off.  This lesson got me into grad school, through grad school, and landed me my current position which I love.

There are so many different types of careers out there for biology students, and they don’t necessarily require an additional degree (MD, Ph.D.).  Find a career that inspires you and challenges you.  I may not make a lot of money but I absolutely love what I do and I’m excited to come to work every day.  And don’t be scared to try something completely new and out of the blue, it may be the thing that inspires you the most.  One thing I did in grad school was start a non-profit, which has turned into a very successful operation and something that I love being a part of, even though it adds to my work load.