Alumni Spotlight: Dr. Elyse Bolterstein

Dr. Elyse Bolterstein (PHD ’10, Allen-Hoffmann Lab) utilized the Delta Program and other opportunities that UW-Madison has to offer to embark upon her tenure-track professorship careerr, currently at primarily undergraduate institution Northeastern Illinois University.


When did you participate in the Molecular and Environmental Toxicology Graduate Program?

2004 – 2010

Please tell us about your current employment (title and responsibilities).

Assistant Professor, Northeastern Illinois University, Department of Biology. I’m a tenure-track faculty member at regional university that has mostly undergraduate students and an amazing level of student diversity. My primary responsibility is teaching (2-3 classes / semester during the academic year) for our undergraduate and masters programs. I also have a research lab where I mentor undergraduate students in using Drosophila as a model for DNA repair and aging and serve on several department and university committees.

Could you describe your career path?

I didn’t originally plan on a career in academia and realized that I enjoyed teaching after being a TA for METC 626. I started taking classes in the Delta Program  at UW to learn more about being in the classroom and completed my Certificate in Research,Teaching, and Learning. Because I was interested in working at a primary undergraduate institute (PUI), I wanted to switch model systems to something more student-friendly than the human embryonic stem cells I worked with in Lynn Allen-Hoffmann’s lab. I was accepted to the Tufts IRACDA postdoctoral program where I worked in the lab of Mitch McVey on DNA repair in Drosophila. As an IRACDA postdoc, I continued to develop my skills in teaching, mentoring, and grant writing, which were key in getting a PUI faculty position. This is my 6th year at NEIU and I’m applying for tenure this fall.

Which aspects of the Molecular and Environmental Toxicology Graduate Program helped you the most?

I liked the smallness of the METC community – it made it easy to build connections and get lots of presentation practice. I also enjoyed the diversity of topics in courses and research.

What advice can you offer current graduate students to help them prepare for a career in your field?

Seek out opportunities for teaching and mentoring – the Delta program is fantastic! Also, start to think of how you could answer your research questions in a PUI setting where there are might be limited resources like time, funding, and space.