Dr. Kelley Healey Krater '09 is a KU alumna success story

Dr. Kelley Healey Krater '09 is a KU alumna success story

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Alumni Success Stories

Dr. Kelley Healey Krater '09

Toms River, N.J., native Dr. Kelley Healey Krater graduated from Kutztown University in 2009 with a bachelor of science degree in biology (pre-professional track). She is now a postdoctoral fellow at the Public Health Research Institute, an affiliate of Rutgers University Biomedical and Health Sciences. An All-America field hockey player, Healey Krater was recently inducted into the KU Athletics Hall of Fame. She offered insight on her time at KU and how her major, activities and experiences helped her in her career.

Why did you choose Kutztown University?
I chose to attend KU for a number of reasons. I was recruited by several schools for athletics but after visiting Kutztown and speaking with both athletic personnel, such as coach Betty Wesner, and biology faculty, such as Dr. Anne Zayaitz, I felt most confident in the athletics and academics at Kutztown. Additionally, my older sister Colleen ('05) was currently attending KU and playing field hockey, which was an added layer of comfort for me.  

How did you select your major?
I became interested in biology and medicine during high school. I knew I wanted to major in biology but at the time was unsure of what exactly I wanted to do following college. While at KU, I considered teaching and medical school, but eventually discovered biomedical research and chose that path.  

What minors did you have and how have those been useful in the professional world?
I actually minored in criminal justice, which happened to be my second interest following biology. This was a great change of pace from my science classes, and I enjoyed learning about the theory and practice of law. These classes also aided in my critical thinking and writing skills. I was close to a minor in biochemistry as well, which was very helpful for me in my graduate school classes.  

How did you get your job and what do you do?
Following graduation from KU, I attended graduate school at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia. My graduate thesis work centered on fungal pathogenesis. After earning my Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology, I began my postdoctoral fellowship in David Perlin's laboratory at the Public Health Research Institute (PHRI) in Newark, NJ. PHRI is affiliated with Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences. I acquired a fellowship from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation to support my research as a postdoctoral fellow. My work focuses on better understanding drug resistance in fungal pathogens. Invasive fungal infections primarily occur in individuals with compromised immune systems, such as those undergoing cancer chemotherapy or immunosuppressive regimens prior to solid organ or stem cell transplantation. Overall, we try to uncover why some of these patients fail antifungal drug therapy and how different fungal pathogens become resistant to multiple drugs. We anticipate that our work will have an impact on the clinical treatment of different patient populations and on public health initiatives. I am also an adjunct professor at a local community college and plan to continue to teach and perform research in the future.  

How does your degree apply to what you do in your work?
In order to determine how different fungal pathogens, such as Candida yeast, can acquire resistance to antifungal drugs, we use microbiology, molecular biology, and biochemistry techniques. My undergraduate degree from Kutztown laid a solid foundation of knowledge and practice in these areas, which allowed me to excel in graduate school and beyond.      

What professors had a positive impact on your career?
After speaking to me on my campus visit, I was lucky to have Dr. Anne Zayaitz as my advisor for my first two years. Dr. Zayaitz also taught all three microbiology courses that I took at KU. These courses peaked my interest in medical microbiology. Additionally, I enjoyed and benefited from Dr. William Towne's senior seminar and genetics courses, Dr. Marilyn Baguinon's molecular biology course, and performing a research project with Dr. Cristen Rosch.   

What is your favorite memory of your time at KU?
My favorite memories include playing field hockey with all three of my sisters (Colleen '05, Carrie '10, and Jacqueline '10), participating in the NCAA playoffs, late night study sessions in the library, and spending time with my teammates and friends off-campus. The weekly 80s/90s night at the local pub also stands out in my mind. Meeting my husband (Stephen Krater '09) who was a swimmer and criminal justice major was also noteworthy!   

What would you tell a prospective student who is considering choosing KU?
Kutztown will provide you with a wonderful college environment and great opportunities. Ensure that you take advantage of these opportunities. Try to gain practical experience in addition to your course work. Whether it is performing research, doing an internship, or building a portfolio, these are the things that will set you apart post-graduation. In addition to my grades, my participation in research projects in the biology department and a volunteer internship in the cytogenetics lab at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children facilitated my acceptance into graduate school. And I would suggest to students that it is equally important to get involved in campus activities, meet new people, and have fun!

Kelley Healey Krater speaks at the 2017 Athletics Hall of Fame Induction