Eric Monson (B.S. 2010) is building his career in medical science on the foundation of his research as an undergraduate in USU’s Biological Engineering department. Monson is currently an M.D. / PhD student at the University of Iowa’s Carver College of Medicine in Iowa City, Iowa.
Monson is currently in the PhD stage of his dual degree and is training as a computational biologist or bioinformaticist. According to Monson, bioinformaticists use computers to manage and analyze large volumes of genetic data. His research is focused on identifying a genetic basis for suicidal behavior by analyzing genetic data from thousands of individuals.
He also participates in genetic and psychiatric medical clinics as a medical student. Monson’s work in the clinical setting involves interviewing, presenting, and developing treatment plans for patients under the oversight of clinical mentors.
Monson’s interest in genetic analysis developed during his time as an undergraduate researcher at USU. He worked in the biomedical laboratory at USU’s Center for Persons with Disabilities, conducting research on genetic links to autism. Another research project involved an attempt copy the human genome while reducing bias. “When you’re trying to copy the genome, there are certain areas that are more readily copied than others,” Monson explained. “Usually you get an unevenly distributed copy of the genome.”
Monson and his research partner received an Undergraduate Research and Creative Opportunities (URCO) gran for their work. “They actually ended up giving us twice as much as we requested, because they could see that it was ambitious,” he said. “We had a lot to do on it, but it was actually a great learning experience.”
For prospective medical students, Monson highly recommends a foundation in biological engineering. He credits the program’s focus on problem-solving and creative thinking with giving biological engineering students an edge when applying for medical school.
Monson hopes to graduate from the University of Iowa with his M.D. and PhD in 2017, after which he will pursue a combined residency and fellowship at an academic medical center. His goal is to continue his study of psychiatric genetics research and practice clinical work in the pediatric psychiatry field.
The Hyrum, Utah, native is a father to two children, with another on the way. He is particularly proud of his dedication to family life in the midst of his rigorous studies. “Hanging out with my family is what I enjoy the most,” Monson said.