In the spring of 2018, Natascha Heise ran her first marathon in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Natascha ran it—and finished. Her time was 4 hours and 35 minutes, but the main thing in her mind is that she reached the finish line. “I’m happy that I did it,” she says.
Natascha is positive that her understanding of anatomy helped her with her race.
“I think I took really good care of my body,” she recalls. “I trained a lot, and so maybe that’s a little bit of prevention, because I knew that I will be putting a lot of pressure on my joints, so I have to make sure that they are prepared for that. At the end of the race I was not in pain. Of course, I was really sore, but I was not in pain. I had no injury, and that’s what I really care about.”
Natascha also helped guide her roommate, who had just started running and was complaining that her hip and knee were starting to hurt.
“So I was thinking about the muscles that cross both joints,” says Natascha. “And then started to think about the iliotibial tract and realized it connects both areas. I was thinking, ‘oh, maybe that’s something we can work on’ so we decided to use a foam roller and applied pressure to that area.”
The foam roller, Natascha says, seemed to help.
Natascha’s interest in anatomy started back in the town of Moormerland, Germany, a town of farmlands and fields near the North Sea.
Back in 2013, Natascha was in her undergraduate program in Germany. At the time, she was working towards her Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Kiel. She was looking for a program to bridge her interest in biology and medicine. That’s when she spotted the master’s degree program at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.
In Germany, she says, “it’s not super popular” to be trained in Biomedical Sciences because the learning tracks there are for students going into medicine and becoming a physician. “You either work with plants and animals or you go into the human aspect of working with patients, and I thought that the program at CSU would be good in helping me find a different path,” she says.
Natascha successfully completed the master’s program at CSU and today her goal is to finish a Ph.D. She estimates it will take about another two years of study and work. She wants to become a professor teaching anatomy and neurology at the college level (and she lights up so much at this thought that you know it’s going to happen).
Through her program at CSU, Natascha is also working as a Graduate Teaching Assistant. Part of her work involves outreach to students in middle schools and high schools, to help develop career awareness in STEM fields and to boost familiarity with anatomy among future college students.
That’s where the Anatomy in Clay® Learning System comes in, she says, as a creative tool that lets students get a hands-on experience without dealing with issues from cadaveric dissection. “It’s great to have the clay alternative,” she says, and students engage easily.
Today’s students, says Natascha, are exposed to many different learning styles all through their school experiences and the Anatomy in Clay® Learning System fits right in.
Natascha, who is content to live in Colorado with all the sunshine (as opposed to the windy and sometimes cold climes of the North Sea coast), feels lucky to have found her passion—even when she’s running marathons.
“I’ve never felt like this,” she says. “At CSU, I feel like I am just doing my hobby and get paid for it.”
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