When pursuing a research career, earning a PhD is a traditional and exciting, yet challenging, part of the process. This fall, sisters Katie and Sally Pauss will lean on one another when they begin the journey together at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine.

“We both independently felt like that was the right thing for us,” Katie said.

The Pauss sisters grew up in Chicago. Katie, who is two years older than Sally, attended the University of Texas at Dallas for her bachelor’s degree. Meanwhile, Sally completed her undergraduate training at the UK College of Arts and Sciences. During that time, she garnered research experience in the lab of Terry Hinds, PhD, associate professor of pharmacology and nutritional sciences in the College of Medicine.

Katie spent a couple of years after graduation gaining work experience. She had heard about her sister’s great experience training at UK. When it came time for Sally to pursue a PhD, Katie was ready to do the same.

“I'm excited for her to come here because I've been living in Lexington for four years now on my own, so it'll be nice to have a family member here,” Sally said.

What stood out to Katie about UK, beyond her sister’s praises, were the current PhD students and their morale during her interview process. “They had a really good work-life balance, and the culture was such that they were able to enjoy their lives and work towards something that really mattered to them,” Katie said. “It stood out to me because I had never seen a group of students who felt that way, collectively, during a PhD program.”

She joked, “Either UK picked some really good actors, or the students are genuinely very happy and very satisfied with their training.”

When the Pauss sisters begin their first year, they will have a guaranteed study partner in each other. All first-year PhD students learn under the UK College of Medicine’s Integrated Biomedical Sciences curriculum, which provides exposure to a variety of biomedical concepts and research approaches. The curriculum is undifferentiated and serves as an entry point for seven degree programs in six basic science departments.

Upon completion, students then choose what they want to pursue: biochemistry, microbiology, neuroscience, nutritional sciences, pharmacology, physiology, or toxicology.

“It allows you to find a lab that works for you and the department that works for you,” Katie said. “The program gives you the opportunity to find the right fit and won’t put you in a box too quickly.”

While Katie and Sally both started in the neuroscience field, their research careers will likely part ways once they become more involved in the PhD program. Both are open-minded, but Katie wants to go into industry, “a little bit more neuroscience mixed with technology or statistics.” After completing a summer program with her lab, Sally wants to pursue research related to pharmacology and metabolism, and maybe even stick with academia. Because of these goals, she remains heavily involved in The Hinds Lab.

Until they begin their separate careers, they are excited to go through their training experience together.

“It’s going to be nice to have the support of somebody who pretty much knows everything about you,” Sally said.