President Mauri Ditzler believes that today’s Monmouth College students will be called upon to solve tomorrow’s problems, and that the abundant natural resources of the Midwest will be key to feeding the world and supplying it with energy.
While the Midwest region may very well provide those solutions, another of the world’s largest problems – curing cancer – is looking for a solution from any part of the world, and one Monmouth College graduate is on the frontline of that battle.
A summa cum laude physics graduate at Monmouth, Jon Kruse ’92 has focused his clinical and research endeavors on intensity modulated radiation therapy. He is currently developing a new facility at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., which will use computer optimization routines to develop complex X-ray treatment plans to deliver high radiation doses to tumors while sparing nearby healthy organs.
Kruse, who joined the clinic as a research fellow in 1999 after receiving his Ph.D. from Michigan State University, said that his time at Monmouth influenced his choice of graduate school.
“The summer after my sophomore year, I was asking around for recommendation letters for summer research programs,” he recalled. “When I asked Professor (Rajkumar) Ambrose, he suggested the research internship at Michigan State University. I ended up going there and working in nuclear physics, and I fell in love.”
So much in love, in fact, that he would later return to MSU for graduate school. He even had the same adviser from his undergraduate summer study as his thesis adviser. Upon graduation, he was named the Sherwood K. Haynes Outstanding Graduate Student in Physics or Astrophysics.
At Monmouth, Kruse furthered his off-campus experiences with a semester at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. In addition to all of these horizon-broadening research opportunities, Kruse found that his classroom preparation at Monmouth, especially in writing, put him ahead of the other students in his graduate program.
“From the first class freshman year, all the way through senior year, there was always writing involved in any of the work I did,” said Kruse, the 2004 recipient of Monmouth College’s Distinguished Young Alumnus Award. “To be a scientist, you need to be able to think critically about your surroundings as well as other people’s writing.”
Kruse’s writing talents were rewarded in 2000, when his manuscript “Guide to Clinical Use of Electronic Portal Imaging,” written with Michael Herman and Chris Hagness, was named best radiation oncology physics paper in the Journal of Applied Clinical Medical Physics.
Kruse said that a welcoming campus atmosphere and a generous scholarship brought him to campus. He took advantage of a wealth of involvement opportunities, including hosting his own radio show, being on the soccer and tennis teams, and joining the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity.
“What I remember about Monmouth is that everyone was encouraged to participate in anything that they had an interest in,” he said. “I don’t think that is always the case at other schools. Students were really involved at Monmouth.”
Such involvement opportunities helped prepare him for his career.
“There was a science major seminar on Friday afternoons,” Kruse recalled. The students listened to presentations about current research methods and topics, followed by a discussion. The seminar introduced Kruse and many other students to the application of critical thinking in the field of scientific research. He remembers being impressed by physics professor Charles Skov’s ability to look deeper into the issues presented and to ask more thoughtful questions.
“Later in graduate school, I would find myself thinking back to those seminars as I applied those skills to my own work,” he said.
That work – computer optimization routines – doesn’t prevent cancer from occurring. It does, however, offer promising potential for a cure, and it’s comforting to know that critical thinkers like Dr. Jon Kruse are on the case.