Alexis Bergsma

About Alexis Bergsma

  • Undergraduate University: University of Michigan (B.S. Biology)

    Alexis Bergsma

  • Thesis: The role of CD82 in osteoclast differentiation
  • Mentor: Cindy Miranti, Ph.D. 
  • Experience: Undergraduate research at the University of Michigan focusing on Wnt signaling in prostate cancer. Intern at VAI where I studied CD82 in prostate cancer metastasis.
  • Conferences:
    Tetraspanins & other membrane scaffolds; Vanderbilt University (2013)
    ASBMR; Baltimore Convention Center (2013)
    Tetraspanins & other membrane scaffolds; Vanderbilt University (2015)
    ASBMR; Washington Convention Center (2015)
    SkyScan Annual Users Meeting (2015)
  • Hometown: Grand Rapids, MI
  • Hobbies: Spending time with her husband and daughter, playing volleyball, Michigan Football, crafting, and napping.


How would you describe your area of study to your grandmother?

Our bones are constantly being degraded and built back up. In fact, every 10 years, we have an entire new skeleton. When this process of degradation and building isn’t tightly regulated, diseases such as osteoporosis may develop. I’m studying the cell type that is responsible for the degradation of bone—the osteoclast. Specifically, I’m looking at how a protein called CD82 is important for osteoclast development and function in hopes of better understanding the process of bone remodeling.

What is your primary motivation for persevering through graduate school?

I am driven by both science and disease. In order to impact human disease scientifically, you need to have a breadth of knowledge. Grad school is training me to think critically like a scientist rather than a student and I understand that I need this further education to maximize my future efforts in the lab. Aside from this, I also feel driven to succeed so that I may be a role model for my daughter as she grows up. I want her to set her goals high and to become whatever she dreams of, no matter how difficult the path may seem. The best way for me to teach her to do this is for me to do it myself.

What do you want to do with your degree?

Unlike the majority of students following this path, I’m interested in staying in the lab down the road. I love experimental planning and pursuit and I find it thrilling to be the first person to see the actual results. I would like to be a senior scientific researcher eventually and am open to teaching opportunities.

Did you take time off before starting your Ph.D. degree or come directly from an undergraduate or master’s degree program?

I went straight from getting my undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan to VAIGS 

How do you think earning an advanced degree will change your role in society?

Outside of my actual research, I hope that being a woman in science will affect society the most. Women are outnumbered in this field and there are many prejudices that may prevent other women from completing an advanced degree. Hopefully by the time the next generation is at this point in their life, this will no longer be the case because of women like my mentor and eventually me. 

What is your favorite stress-reduction technique?


What accomplishment (academic or other) are you most proud of?

Passing comprehensive exams while pregnant was a huge feat that I’m glad I will never have to go through again.

If you hadn’t been admitted to graduate school, what do you think you would be doing right now?

I would likely be working as a research technician somewhere across the country as my husband was being recruited for a job at the time that would have meant relocating every 2-3 years. Thankfully we landed here in the wonderful city of Grand Rapids!

Is there anything else you would like us to know about your doctoral education experience?

It’s not easy…it’s very taxing…but it will all be worth it in the end.