Bulletin boards and genetics

MINOT, N.D. – Heidi Super credits her career path to bulletin boards and genetics.

“I just saw an ad for the position,” the Minot State biology professor and medical laboratory science program coordinator said. “I was coming to the end of my post-doc at Rocky Mountain Laboratories and I had seen the rat race of grant work, and I knew I wasn’t looking for that. Seeing that this was a primarily undergraduate position with opportunity for research — it was a good fit.”

Before starting at the University in Fall 1999, Super spent her graduate work at the University of Chicago identifying a particular gene mutation that leads to leukemia in children and infants. Her time in Minot has continued that research.

“I’ve focused my projects on figuring out why these mutations take place — the mechanisms — and also some techniques for making common chemotherapy drugs work better,” she said. “By being able to research here, I’ve been able to give my students really good hands-on experience in the field.”

An innate connection to the earth is an important pillar in her life, from camping with her family, to running half marathons, to gardening, to being a part of the sustainability committee on campus.

“I’ve always just been curious about the natural world. We were a camping family, a fishing family. I grew up in that environment, you could say it’s a part of my genetics” she said. 

The combination of high school biology teacher Tom Teeter and a childhood immersed in the Wyoming outdoors led Super to her studies in biology. But it was the desire to avoid exams — and another bulletin board — that led to the world of research.

 “In order to graduate with honors in college, you had to either take comprehensive exams and do really well or do a research project. And there was no research going on at my undergraduate institution,” she said. “And so again, my school had bulletin boards with pamphlets about undergraduate research opportunities. I applied to Oak Ridge National Lab in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

“That’s really where I learned about the world of research. And I was hooked.”

While Super was enticed by the research opportunities at Minot State, she was initially hesitant about the teaching aspect.

“That was a big surprise for me — that I really like teaching. It is a great way to balance research out,” she said. “In my experience, it is like one step forward and two steps back, especially with undergraduate researchers who don’t have any experience. But teaching for the most part is going forward every day. And I like that feeling.”

And call it chance or call it genetics, Super’s two daughters have followed their mother’s footsteps into biology.

“Clare is a biological anthropologist and then Meg, she’s doing neurobiology research and I’m actually doing a little side project for her lab,” Super said. “It’s been really fun to build collaboration and work with her. My youngest, Sam, is steering clear of science.  His passion is music and theater.

“I never thought I would be able to do research in my field, at this level. The research opportunities at Minot State were more than I thought possible.” 


About Minot State University
Minot State University is a public university dedicated to excellence in education, scholarship, and community engagement achieved through rigorous academic experiences, active learning environments, commitment to public service, and a vibrant campus life.

Published: 01/03/23   

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