NSRI Intern Ashley Ravnholdt, UNO graduate and UNMC graduate student, with her mentor Dr. Joshua Santarpia, NSRI science and technology advisor.
Ashley Ravnholdt’s journey with the National Strategic Research Institute (NSRI) at the University of Nebraska has continuously shaped and molded the future of her career.
In 2020, the then senior biology major at the University of Nebraska at Omaha began working with NSRI scientists to grow her knowledge, specifically regarding the fundamentals of polyamorous chain reaction cell culturing as well as general laboratory etiquette and upkeep.
The mentorship she received and the results of her work proved to have a much larger impact on her than she even initially expected.
"The most captivating thing about the work I have delivered at NSRI is understanding that all of the minor tasks I complete each day play a role in contributing to a major project that can assist in defending the United States," Ravnholdt said.
Her hard work and contributions have led her to the next phase of her education — she has been accepted into the biological defense and health security (BDHS) graduate program at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. With her bachelor’s degree diploma in hand as of December, she has already started her studies at UNMC.
"Working as an intern through NSRI provided me with direct, hands-on experience of science outside of academia through observing and partaking in the work of other NSRI scientists,” she said. “Working alongside other graduate students there also inspired me to consider continuing my education, and after being introduced to their field, I became interested in biological defense."
The BDHS program, led by Dr. Joshua Santarpia who serves as NSRI science and technology advisor and UNMC associate professor of pathology and microbiology, purposefully exposes emerging scientists to the global public health and national security applications of their work. They are trained to conduct research aimed at protecting civilian and military populations and with an appreciation for the unique research applications in these areas.
"Ashley is incredibly smart and motivated. Students like Ashley are the reason why I returned to academia,” Dr. Santarpia said. “We have to inspire students like Ashley to pursue careers that support our national security. The old guard is retiring, and we are counting on the next generation of scientists to fill their shoes."
Ravnholdt’s particular passion for infectious disease was prompted by her interest in protecting public health. The science is ever changing, she said. It is an exciting space to learn, explore and contribute.
Through her graduate studies she is most looking forward to acquiring in-depth knowledge of the field.
"Infectious diseases are unpredictable, but also inevitable,” she said. “We have learned over the last two years just how important strong and effective responses are for public safety. This area of research encourages one to learn about how to prevent, treat and cure infectious diseases that impact the world."
New student opportunities are coming soon! Get details at nsri.nebraska.edu/future.
About the National Strategic Research Institute
Through the National Strategic Research Institute at the University of Nebraska leading scientists deliver innovative national security research, technology, product and strategy development, training and exercises, and subject matter expertise to the Department of Defense and other federal agencies. One of only 14 DOD-designated University Affiliated Research Centers in the country, NSRI is sponsored by U.S. Strategic Command and works to ensure the United States’ safety and preparedness against increasingly sophisticated threats. Committed Mission.