First Comes a Master's, Then Comes Marriage

photo of Ernest Fischer and Kat Claridge smiling


As an undergraduate working toward degrees in chemical engineering and Plan II Honors, Kat Clarridge recalls one of her favorite studying spots on campus—the library in the School of Architecture. The open lighting and the ringing of the tower bells helped her concentration. But one day Kat ventured from that favored spot and chose to study in the chemical engineering library. It was there she met her future husband, Ernest Fischer, also a chemical engineering undergrad. The two hit it off and began dating. After graduating and a brief stint in industry, they both decided to pursue MS degrees in biomedical engineering, also at UT.

Kat wanted a biomedical engineering degree to advance her toward medical school, while Ernest saw potential in the field’s fast growth. Kat worked with Computer Science Professor Chandrajit Bajat on ribozyme and protein structure analysis, while Ernest worked with Biomedical Engineering Professor Mia Markey on computational modeling of the immune response.  In the midst of research, experiments, and theses proposals, a proposal of a different nature arose, and the two were soon married.

After earning their MS degrees, Kat and Ernest both went on to pursue medical degrees at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. Medical school was a natural fit for Kat, with her combined background in math, science, and humanities from her B.A. in Plan II. Ernest was inspired by Kat’s interest and felt his background in biomedical engineering would allow him to work well with industry as a physician. 

Throughout their relationship, both say they’ve each influenced each other’s decisions to varying degrees.

"We have the same interests," Ernest says. "And we’ve both compromised and pulled each other in different directions that follow our individual interests by inspiring the other person."

Kat agrees.

"Throughout school, he’s at times pushed me to be more aggressive about research, whereas I may have introduced him to the joys of literature."

Beyond having similar professional interests, the two also enjoy combining volunteer and learning opportunities with tourism, having spent extensive time in both India and Peru, working as doctors and on NIH international health research projects.

Today, both are first-year residents in pediatrics and internal medicine at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and The University of Cincinnati. They live in a cozy neighborhood within walking distance to the hospitals. Though they appreciate living in a city where the leaves change color in the fall, both have fond memories of Austin.

Kat, an avid runner, misses Austin’s trails, but not the heat. Ernest, who played rugby as a student, also misses the trail around Lady Bird Lake (formerly Town Lake), and fondly recalls the proximity to Deep Eddy when he and Kat lived off Lake Austin Boulevard.

Although their common interests have taken them on the same path, busy residency schedules keep them apart with opposite work schedules. "We’re currently both working in the neonatal nursery but when I’m on call, he’ll be finishing his shift, and vice versa," Kat says.

They see each other in the mornings, when Kat is leaving the nursery and Ernest begins work.

"He’ll usually bring me coffee," she says.Both Kat and Ernest credit The University of Texas at Austin for where they are now.

Kat is pleased with her education, one reason being that the size and diversity of The University of Texas at Austin expose students to the best and brightest in terms of faculty and students.

"We didn’t take the typical path to medical school," says Ernest. "But having an engineering background worked to our benefits. It has made me more flexible, and both Kat and I have an advantage in that we’ve conducted research. This helped us in med school, and in the long run will make it easier for us to read and interpret research, which will help us stay up to date as physicians."

November 2010