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2015 Today’s Top 10: Nicole Michmerhuizen

The Division III 10,000 meters national champion is making strides in diabetes research

Nicole Michmerhuizen was a standout in cross country and track and field at Calvin College. She won the 10,000 meters at the Division III Outdoor Track and Field Championships in 2013, and was national runner up in the 5,000 meters at the 2013 and 2014 Division III indoor championships. She holds the school record in the 5,000- and 10,000-meter races.

Many athletes have compiled long lists of accolades like those. Not many, though, have done so while battling Type 1 diabetes.

Michmerhuizen learned she had the disease in eighth grade. Running has helped her regulate her blood sugar and stay in control of her diabetes. And, in turn, the disease has given her a mission beyond the track. Michmerhuizen spent two years at Calvin researching the human genome, including the proteins and the regions of DNA that are associated with diabetes susceptibility.

“My student-athlete experience taught me time management and discipline,” said Michmerhuizen. “I took being a student-athlete seriously, and considered myself a student first and athlete second, but my hard work in both my research and athletics were fun for me, so it didn’t feel much like work.”

After graduating with a 3.99 GPA in biochemistry and engineering, she enrolled at the University of Michigan, where she is working on her Ph.D. in pharmacology and hopes to one day find new treatments for people with similar diabetic conditions.

Lab research is challenging and grueling, perhaps not physically, but Michmerhuizen has learned that it requires the same perseverance she needed as a runner.

“When you’re the first person to study something, there are bound to be things that go wrong and that you have to troubleshoot, and it can be frustrating,” she said. “But if you keep working at it, when you finally discover something no one has seen before, all that time and effort seems worth it.”