Alumni Spotlight

Robyn Partin working with patient at St. Jude

Photo courtesy of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

Robyn Partin
Manager of Clinical Research Operations - St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
MS - Exercise, Sport & Movement Sciences '08

Why did you choose the University of Memphis?

I instantly felt like the UofM was the best choice for me because of how closely the faculty mentored graduate students. Learning proper research methods is important and the care and attention I received as a graduate assistant prepared me for my research career.

Why did you choose your major?

I was an athlete from a young age and was always more interested in math and science in school. Exercise science allowed me to study the science of athletics and sport which captured my interest in both and motivated me to learn, even during harder semesters.

What was your experience like in the College of Health Sciences?

I feel very fortunate to have attended the UofM in the College of Health Sciences. I received a top notch education from some of the most highly regarded researchers in the field. The faculty's approach was very hands on and rigorous, much like I experience in my career. As a graduate assistant, I learned how to perform a research study from beginning to end and how to manage a lab, both of which I do on a daily basis in my career at St. Jude. I now interview student interns and realize that not all programs are created equal; the UofM has one of the best programs in the country.

Was there any particular faculty or staff member from our college that made an impact on you and how/why?

Drs. Brian Schilling and Rick Bloomer had a huge impact on my graduate career, and they continue to do so today. Dr. Schilling was my direct graduate advisor and mentor. I was his graduate assistant and ran his biomechanics lab. He taught me the ins and outs of running a lab while also being a great friend, which I needed being new to Memphis. Dr. Bloomer began as "just" a professor. I learned so much in his courses and he motivated me to work hard. It was really after I graduated that we became friends and colleagues. We still communicate regularly regarding work, and I have spent many holidays with him and his family over the last decade. He and his family are some of my closest friends in Memphis.

What were your favorite classes and/or activities?

Cardiorespiratory Exercise Physiology was probably my favorite course. It was challenging, but I probably use this information the most in my day to day operations. My favorite activity was problem solving with Dr. Schilling in our lab. Being an academic institution, we didn't always have everything we absolutely needed when we needed it. If a piece of equipment broke - we had to fix it! There were many trips to the hardware store and many unique fixes to problems that arose in the lab. Those were some of my best memories.

How did our college prepare you for your career?

As I stated previously, this graduate program was rigorous and definitely prepared me for what I do currently. It's often "feast or famine" in my career; I either have just a couple of tasks that are not time sensitive, or I have several huge projects that have to be finished in just a few days time. Graduate school felt the same way. I learned great time management and prioritizing skills that I still use today. Being that I am in a career very similar to the graduate program, nearly everything I learned from courses and professors carries over to my current career.

What is a day in the life of your career like?

Every day looks a little bit different. I am the manager of our team and lab, so sometimes I do patient assessments, but more often than not, I'm in the office doing administrative tasks. I write manuscripts, assist with grants, research new equipment, budget for and track equipment maintenance, hire and manage personnel, attend and present at conferences, help coordinate research studies, and so much more. I'm a "go to" for my direct supervisor, who is a full member in our department, so I am available for just about anything she needs.

What’s your favorite memory from the UofM and/or the College of Health Sciences?

I went to school with a fantastic group of people. I was almost always in class with the same couple of people. I have so many memories with this group that it's hard to come up with my favorite. We did so many things outside of class together, and they really made the two years of graduate school enjoyable. All of them are very successful individuals and I feel lucky to know them and to have studied with them.

What advice would you give current or incoming students?

Have a plan. Many people who study in our field (undergraduate or graduate level) end up in a career outside of the exercise science field. There is not a huge job market for master's level exercise scientists (yet). If you are going to invest the time to get a master's, think about where it might lead you in the future. Just because you complete a master's degree, does not mean you will find a job or career in this field. Think about where this degree will lead you, but start doing the work early so that you are not wasting your time.

Why would you recommend the College of Health Sciences?

This program is one of the best in the country. I interact with master's and doctoral level students from other institutions regularly, and rarely are these students at the same level as the College of Health Sciences. We are very fortunate to have had, and still have, some top notch professors and researchers.

If you could go back, what would you do differently?

I would have taken more statistical courses. This is probably one of my biggest weaknesses in my current career, and I wish I would have put more effort into learning more analysis.

Did you do an internship? If so, where and what was it like?

Since I was a graduate student, I did not do an internship. I completed a master's thesis which I highly recommend if you want to work in a research career.