Thomas Vierhout

Thomas Vierhout

Secretary and Co-Founder, Dakota Research And Consulting Organization
Sioux Falls, SD
Biology, 2013, Biomedical Engineering, 2017, MD, 2022

"Explore outside your major. The future of South Dakota innovation does not depend on only one discipline. Working with scientists, doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs and many others will help you see problems from new perspectives and provide many opportunities to learn and develop professionally."

Q&A with Thomas:

Describe your current educational or professional pursuits.

After receiving my master’s degree in biomedical engineering, I was accepted into the Sanford School of Medicine where I am in my first year. The work so far has been an incredible challenge and I am excited to continue learning. I am leveraging my experience in research by serving on the medical student research committee. I am also taking part in the Sanford Sons and Daughters program, which is a great program Sanford Health offers to help medical students learn more about healthcare in our region.

Additionally, I am staying involved in the non-profit biotechnology consulting group that myself and some fellow graduate students founded in 2017. The Dakota Research And Consulting Organization (DRACO) offers graduate student consultants the opportunity to provide affordable consulting services to local biotechnology companies. DRACO helped multiple researchers at USD write grants, receive funding, and complete projects our first year. Additionally, DRACO has received support from multiple local businesses including First National Bank, Zeal Center for Entrepreneurship, and the South Dakota Biotech Association, who recognize the need for affordable help for biotech start-ups. This next year is looking to be one of continued growth, more student engagement, and more exciting projects with academic researchers, small businesses, and physicians.

How did your USD experience influence your career path?

The opportunities I had at USD to work on such exciting multidisciplinary projects changed my career path immensely! Performing research and collaborating with researchers and physicians that are making the next innovative breakthroughs helped me see the enormous potential for medical and biotechnology growth here in South Dakota and inspired me to apply to medical school. Also, working at the GEAR center in Sioux Falls and seeing the start of the Discovery District research park helped me see that South Dakota is the place to be if you’re interested in medicine and biotech and want to be a part of an industry that is only going to continue growing.

Tell us about your proudest achievement.

My proudest achievements are getting accepted into medical school and co-founding DRACO. Being a part of the Sanford School of Medicine is a huge honor and an incredible opportunity. I am also proud of DRACO because the biotech sector is going to be huge for South Dakota. It has been exciting to see the growth even in the last couple of years. Being able to be a part of that and contribute to the development of students who are interested in growing the industry has been very fulfilling.

What was your USD experience like? Were you involved in any campus organizations or activities?

My experience at USD was and continues to be eye-opening. During graduate school, I was involved in research and the Society for Biomaterials. These pursuits gave me a great multidisciplinary look at South Dakota. Through the Society for Biomaterials, we presented scientific demonstrations at multiple events for kids. It was great to see the multiple organizations interested in nurturing our future scientists. Through my research, I was able to collaborate with scientists from all over the state. The truly great thing about South Dakota is that you can work with people in diverse fields from all over the state. Through my biomedical engineering research, I met and collaborated with researchers from Sanford, Augustana University and South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. This openness to collaboration helped me see the potential for huge growth in multiple sectors in South Dakota.

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