Eric Van Otterloo
With a biology degree in hand, Eric Van Otterloo was still unsure of what he wanted to do after he graduated from Dordt College in 2005. He decided to return to the lab for a year before making up his mind about graduate school. His summer internship during college led to his first position in the lab at the Center for Psychiatric Neuroscience, part of the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
“The professors at Dordt provide great connections for undergraduate internships,” Eric said. “At the time I did not understand how special that is for a biology student.”
Eric finished his graduate work with the University of Iowa where he earned a Ph.D. in anatomy and cell biology. As part of his Ph.D. program in developmental biology, he examined the genetic connection between normal pigment production in zebra fish and melanoma cells. He feels that Dordt's biology program prepared him well for graduate school, and the smaller class sizes helped him get the type of educational experience that he needed.
“Due to the small class size, professors are able to spend more time on each student, ensuring a higher quality of education,” Eric said. “The professors laid an excellent foundation for me to build upon in my graduate work.”
Today Eric works in the lab of Trevor Williams of the University of Colorado studying craniofacial development. "The gist of my project will be knocking out a family of transcription factors in a tissue specific manner in the face–trying to isolate which specific tissues these transcription factors are contributing to proper facial development," said Eric.
During his time at Dordt, Eric was involved in Student Senate (now Student Symposium) and PLIA (Putting Love Into Action). He also met his wife Jen who now works at Jewel Children's Center in Denver, Colorado. They have a two-year-old daughter. And now, even though he graduated from Dordt few years ago, he continues to value the strong sense of community he found here, noting that it was one of the things that drew him to the college in the first place.
“It is great knowing so many of your fellow students,” Eric said. “Unlike in a bigger school, you are not lost in the crowd.”