Elliot Kramer '14, a biology major, poses in a laboratory.

Cardiovascular research, ants expedition gives Elliot confidence for scientific career

February 03, 2014

New York City native Elliot Kramer ’14 discovered Earlham College because of its earnest review in Loren Pope’s book, “Colleges That Change Lives.”

To Kramer’s surprise, his life began to change before he even started his freshman year.

“Really, what was a profound experience for me was the orientation programs here at Earlham,” says Kramer, now a senior biology major. “I participated in the mountain August Wilderness in the Uinta Mountains of Utah.

“As a city kid, I had never had any experience camping before,” he says. “To go out there and have to rely on your own abilities was amazing. Ever since that program I’ve been very much involved with the wilderness program here.”

The transformation continued for Kramer while on campus where he not only identified his personal passions, but earned real-world opportunities to launch a career at a research hospital.

"What’s really impressed me about the academics at Earlham is how the faculty and students are right there next to each other,” Kramer says. “It’s almost like we’re peers. The fact that I don’t have to use formal titles to refer to my professor really breaks down that barricade of authority.

“It allows me to network with them. It helps me prepare myself for a future career but also to engage just after class, asking questions about assignments, and moving forward over the summer, for example to do research.”

Perhaps the most influential research experience he had was being accepted into a summer research program where he studied cardiovascular disease at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a Harvard Medical School training hospital in Boston. 

There, Kramer worked with a graduate student to study the effects of intimal hyperplasia, or the thickening of a blood vessel as a result of a complication of bypass graft failure.

“Bypass surgery can often prevent a heart attack in the short term, but actually those grafts can clot up themselves and cause failure later on,” he says. “So understanding the mechanism for why that happens and preventing another surgery three years from now is very important in the field.”

In addition to his research at Harvard Medical School, Kramer collaborated with Earlham faculty on two other major research projects. The first included travelling to Florida with Assistant Professor of Biology Chris Smith and a team of students to investigate whether fat content influences the roles of ants in their colonies. The second involved studying uranium-binding polymers on a molecular level using computer simulation alongside Associate Professor of Chemistry Lori Watson.

Eighty-five percent of the College’s faculty report that they work collaboratively with students in meaningful research projects.

“That variety has really prepared me for whatever life gives me next,” he says. 

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