Building a family and a career

photo of woman looking into microscope


fter completing a bachelor’s degree in three years, Liz Pitroff, MHS ’21, set her sights on earning a master of health science at Quinnipiac.

And raising a 9-year-old daughter. And moving to Connecticut. And looking at her future through an eye-opening, 13-headed microscope.

For Pitroff, a pathologists’ assistant student in the School of Health Sciences, life in graduate school has been a wonderful whirlwind of classes, calendars and, yes, family hikes — every chance she gets.

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photo of woman in a laboratory cutting up specimen for a slide

“Science and the environment are huge in our family,” said Pitroff, who lives with her husband, Nile, and their daughter, Ella. “We’re very conscious about exposing Ella to science and pushing through those artificial boundaries about women pursuing careers in STEM.”

Science, technology, engineering and mathematics — they all factor into the study of pathology. At Quinnipiac, Pitroff and her fellow students learn to examine, process and prepare tissue specimens for a variety of clinical tests and procedures.

From classes in the microscopic anatomy lab with associate professor Maurice Fremont-Smith to learning about physiology and disease mechanisms with associate professor Thomas Martin, Pitroff has discovered a whole new world. And a whole new side of herself. 

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“I would definitely encourage older professional women — or men, for that matter — who have families that this is absolutely a field you can go into,” Pitroff said. “Quinnipiac is fantastic about encouraging all its students. I’ve found that if you love what you’re doing, it’s achievable.”

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“Ella loves to pick out slides and study them under the microscope at home, so we made a game about it,” Pitroff said, eager to share these moments of discovery with her daughter. 

Muscle, epithelial, connective, nervous? You make the call on ‘Guess the Tissues!’ 

At the same time, Pitroff is expanding her own knowledge of science with every class, every assignment. Even though Commencement is a year away, Pitroff already has a “job notebook” filled with her aspirations.

“I’d like to work at one of the larger hospitals [in Connecticut], or even, one of the smaller ones,” Pitroff said. “I just want to make sure I work somewhere where I’m challenged and engaged professionally. Likewise, I really want to stay in contact with Quinnipiac because I’d love to be a preceptor someday and maybe teach at some point. I think I’d really like that.”

photo of woman looking into microscope