Karissa Secora

Class Year



Brookfield, Wis.




Biology, Psychology

Karissa Secora, ’12, was immediately enamored by the study of the brain when she took an advanced-placement psychology class during her junior year of high school. She thought it would be a good field for her and began doing research to learn more about it. Soon after, a family member was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a degenerative neurological disorder. That’s when she decided that neuroscience was her calling.

“My dream is to understand, treat and diagnose patients with neurological disorders like multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s as a neurology physician’s assistant,” she said.

After four campus visits, Karissa chose to attend Carthage because it is one of the only schools in Wisconsin with a designated neuroscience program. It is also one of the few schools in the Midwest that offers its students hands-on experience as early as sophomore year.

“Not many students can do surgery on a rat at age 19,” Karissa said. “Carthage’s Neuroscience Program gives students unique opportunities like this to engage in hands-on learning, conduct research, and develop skills that will aid in any health or research career.”

At the encouragement of fellow students and her professors, Karissa applied for the Research Experience for Undergraduates program. She applied to seven programs, and was ultimately accepted into the Medical College of Wisconsin Summer Program for Undergraduate Research.

“I had the opportunity to learn lab techniques like Western blotting and immunohistochemistry, and was even able to design my own experiment encompassing in situ hybridization,” Karissa said. “Thanks to the help of science faculty at Carthage, I was one of 27 students accepted into this program nationwide.”

“Not many students can do surgery on a rat at age 19. Carthage Neuroscience Department gives students unique opportunities like this to engage in hands on learning, conduct research and develop skills that will aid in any health or research career.”

Karissa Secora, ’12

Career goal

To be a Neurology Physician Assistant (PA).

How have Carthage faculty had an impact on your life or Carthage career?

“There are so many great professors at Carthage, but I have two favorite professors. Dr. Dan Miller’s passion and energy for neuroscience is contagious to his students. He teaches with such enthusiasm, you cannot help but smile with him. Dr. Dan Choffnes also has a strong interest in his field, which is relayed in his everyday teaching. He seeks out the best in students and pushes them to be their very best. These two professors have greatly influenced me and continue to push me because they want their students to be successful.”

Favorite class

“Most neuroscience majors can agree that Research Methods in Neuroscience is their favorite class. I absolutely loved doing surgery on rats and understanding the relationship of rodent research and humans. Being in the lab makes you feel like a real neuroscientist!”

Campus involvement

“I am the vice president of Tri-Beta (national honors biology fraternity), vice president of Gamma Nu Sigma (Neuroscience Club), and am the president and founder of Pre-Physician Assistant Club. I played lacrosse at Carthage for two years, am a member of Pre-Health Club, and sing in the Carthage Treble Choir.”

Toughest class

Genetics. It is taught uniquely and pushes students in a new way. We are forced to think outside of the box and apply our knowledge. It was a very interesting class, but the structure was challenging for me.”

Favorite moments and memories at Carthage

“I absolutely love singing in the Christmas Festival in December. It is such a magical and spiritual performance that draws people from all over the Midwest. As a member of the lacrosse team, it was fun to travel all over the United States to places like Oregon, California, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.”

Favorite spot on campus

“Anywhere near the lake, and inside the chapel when the sun is shining through the glass.”

Biggest surprise so far

“Time management is essential and requires more time than most think. High school is very different than college and although you have fewer classes, you need to put more time into planning your time. I was challenged to adapt quickly to the college rigor.”

Why should other students consider your major? What advice do you have for them?

“Come prepared. Take chances and take AP classes if you can. Don’t just go for the bare minimum. Add on another major or a couple minors. Carthage gives you the opportunity to do that in four years. Get involved. Join at least two clubs.”