University Communications

Erika Laho

Erika Laho interns on diabetes project

Studying diabetes and interning in the summertime

Erika Laho is spending the summer caring for some very small creatures, for a very important reason.

Laho is interning as a lead student researcher in the lab of Dr. Marina Cetkovic-Cvrlje studying the effect of Coca Cola on the progression of type 1 diabetes in mice.

This summer Laho is assisting with watching over 40 mice and administering the Coca-Cola. This fall her main role will be dissection of treated mice and preparing their spleens' cells for culturing and flow cytometric.

Laho is a Biomedical Science major who is graduating in December. She is attending St. Cloud State thanks in part to an ACCESS STEM scholarship.

Erika Laho working in the labThe National Science Foundation (NSF) funded Academic Collaboration and Coordination Model to Ensure Student Success in STEM (ACCESS STEM) scholarship provides support to 100 students with demonstrated financial need to support more diversity, including more women, in STEM fields.

Laho loves working in the lab and looks forward to establishing her career in the lab someday researching diseases like cancer. She has been working with Cetkovic-Cvrlje, first joining the lab last summer when they were studying the effect of Yerba Mate.

During spring semester she won an Undergraduate Poster Presentation Award at Huskies Showcase with fellow students Pasang Sherpa and Jameson Blaylock for the poster "Does Treatment with Yerba Mate (Ilex paraguariensis) Skew T-cell Profiles in an Experimental Mouse Model of Type 1 Diabetes?". 

She also took a three-week international capstone course in Pathophysiology this summer studying and working with biotechnology counterparts from the University of Rijeka in Croatia on a project about type 2 diabetes. The class was supposed to be study abroad, but COVID-19 kept students in the United States. They were still able to work with students in Croatia, however, and work on presentations, writing papers and debating current health issues together. The students met in the morning at St. Cloud State when it was the afternoon in Croatia and were able to collaborate and experience the cultural differences as much as Zoom allowed, she said.

The experience is just one new experience in science Laho has enjoyed since coming to St. Cloud State, many of the experiences she’s had have been thanks to ACCESS STEM.

The ACCESS STEM program was helpful because it gives participants a cohort of students to get to know in a smaller setting with group activities designed to help them get to know one another, she said.

“The students can help with classes and other work and even just adjusting to college life,” she said. “We’ve all kind of gone through it together. Some of the classes before helped me. It’s nice to help the new freshmen coming in.”


The ACCESS STEM scholarship program is funded by the National Science Foundation and supports students with financial need at St. Cloud State and three Minnesota State community colleges pursuing STEM majors. The program includes students at St. Cloud State and St. Cloud Technical & Community College, Ridgewater College and Anoka-Ramsey Community College.