When Chris Paradise graduates from the Mayo
Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences in May, it will be yet
another important milestone in his lifelong relationship with Mayo Clinic. The
one time Mayo patient and child of a Mayo Clinic nurse will be the first
student to graduate from the doctoral research training program known as the
Regenerative Sciences Training Program (RSTP). It will be a culmination of hard
work and dedication, backed by a positive attitude and team approach that is recognized
by his fellow students and colleagues.
“I was interested in science and fascinated by how
biological systems worked at a young age,” says Paradise. “I was the kid that
grew mold for the science fair project and stayed up late into the night
building a 3D model of the cell out of candy.”
This inherent interest and his involvement in sports at the
high school and college level fueled his fascination with musculoskeletal
biology and orthopedics. When Paradise was in high school he injured his
shoulder playing football — an injury that would have ended his athletic
career. He describes the care he received at Mayo as a turning point in his
life, which allowed him to play ball at a college level and sparked a further
interest in science and healing.
After receiving his bachelor’s degree from St. Olaf College
in Northfield, Minn., Paradise found himself intrigued by how science could be
applied to healing human health and disease. He wanted to continue his
education where he could make a difference in the lives of patients through
In 2017, when Mayo Clinic announced
the RSTP, one of the nation’s first doctoral research training programs in
regenerative sciences, Paradise knew he had found the perfect opportunity to
enhance his education and take advantage of all the resources the Center
for Regenerative Medicine has to offer.
“The program was perfectly aligned with my desire to bring
knowledge from the lab to patients through regenerative science,” says
Paradise. “This was an opportunity to not only broaden my foundational
knowledge of stem cell and regenerative biology, but to connect with an
outstanding community of students, scientists and physicians leading the way in
the field of regenerative medicine.”
Paradise has had a productive start to his research career
during his time in graduate school. He credits his laboratory mentors and the
collaborative environment of Mayo Clinic for the opportunity to contribute to a
wide array of exciting research papers. Chris has contributed to over 20
research articles published in journals such as Nature Biomedical Engineering, Stem
Cells and Development, and the Journal
of Biological Chemistry, in addition to publishing two first-author papers
of his own.
He says the comprehensive approach of Mayo Clinic — being
able to take an idea or problem to a research lab and subsequently translating
a solution into patient care — is the reason he chose to study at Mayo. He
landed in the lab of Andre
van Wijnen, Ph.D., now his research mentor, where he began as a research
trainee. After this full-time experience in a biomedical laboratory, Paradise
applied for the Ph.D. Program in
biomedical science at Mayo
Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences to continue his education.
Two years after starting in Dr. van Wijnen’s lab, he joined the group as a
full-time graduate student to investigate new strategies for bone and cartilage
repair. Shortly after, he was accepted into the RSTP.
“Chris has set the bar high for future students,” says Dr.
van Wijnen. “Beyond his incredible research achievements that are truly off the
charts, he is has been a model citizen of the Mayo Clinic academic community.
He was active in further development of coursework as part of the graduate
school’s regenerative medicine curriculum, participated in journal clubs, and
served as a teaching assistant for several courses on campus.”
Paradise and the team in Dr. van Wijnen’s lab are actively
investigating new approaches for musculoskeletal regeneration using adult stem
cells and new drugs that may lead to a better understanding of bone
regeneration. They’re working to improve the current standard of care in
orthopedic repair and restoration of the human joint — bone, cartilage,
ligament and tendon.
“Chris’ attitude and work ethic embodies the core values of
Mayo Clinic,” says Dr. van Wijnen. “He is always willing to help and is the
first to volunteer even if it is outside of his responsibilities — even helping
to teach and mentor others in the lab.”
Outside of the lab, Paradise brings another value to his
fellow students and colleagues at Mayo Clinic — he grew up just down the road from
Rochester in Mantorville, Minn. His mother has been a nurse at Mayo for over 30
years, and he has been a regular patient at Mayo throughout his life.
“Beyond science, Chris has been the source of local
information to those who are new to the community,” says Amel Dudakovic, Ph.D.,
a senior research associate who has also served as a mentor to Chris during his
time in the lab. “On numerous occasions, he has spent his personal time helping
others navigate local events and culture.”
Additionally, Paradise gives back to the community through
student-led community outreach organizations such as Brainwaves, a group
dedicated to teaching local middle and high school students about the brain.
He successfully defended his thesis March 4 in front of a
large audience of friends, family, and Mayo Clinic faculty. He will graduate
from the Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences on May 17.
The RSTP continues to be a priority for the Center for Regenerative Medicine and the graduate school, as a way to prepare the next generation of scientists to accelerate the discovery, translation and application of cutting-edge regenerative diagnostics and therapeutics.
Mayo Clinic Center for Regenerative Medicine supports over
20 students in the RSTP, which accepts 3-4 students per year and has students
on all three Mayo graduate school campuses in Arizona, Florida and Rochester.
Students in the program graduate with a doctorate in biomedical sciences with
an emphasis in regenerative sciences and their track of choice.
“The sky is the limit at a place like Mayo with the
resources we have here as students,” says Paradise. “I have been fortunate to
collaborate with leaders in the regenerative medicine field and the orthopedics
department on many projects.” He adds that the last six years have been
incredibly enjoyable thanks to his friends and colleagues at Mayo Clinic.