Eleanor Sato

Eleanor Sato knew she wanted to study science because of her desire to learn how things occur in the human body.


“I wasn’t as interested in how machines worked, or how the economy rises and falls.  I wasn’t even interested in how things worked at all, but rather why they did. I was the student who kept asking, ‘why’ to every single question; science is what has always given me the answers,” said Sato.

Currently, Sato conducts research in a psychology research lab, the Cognitive Learning and Development Lab, under Professor Nicole McNeil. McNeil and her team focused on discovering the mechanisms involved in how children develop an understanding of the mathematical concept of equivalence. The research strives to improve the academic success of future generations by facilitating effective teaching strategies. 

“I have been working on one of our major studies, funded by the National Science Foundation, since my sophomore year.  During just my three years here, it has been fascinating to watch these kids progress and grow; although this is a longitudinal study, every time we meet with the kids there is a very noticeable difference in how much they’ve learned,” said Sato.

After participating in the Building Bridges Multicultural Program, which matches underrepresented first-year students with faculty and upper classmen, as a mentee, Sato decided to become a mentor herself. Sato was also chosen from a group of students who previously succeeded in General Chemistry to be a Peer-Led Team Leader for the course.  Her role involved tutoring a group of students and facilitating collaborative learning while integrating material from their lectures with new problem solving skills.

Each year the Michael E. DeBakey Summer Surgery Program chooses 14 students to participate in the experience. Sato was chosen to participate in the experience, and worked with the cardiothoracic team at Ben Taub General Hospital in Houston, Texas. There, she attended daily rounds, clinic, lectures and conferences. Eventually, she presented for the Department of Surgery at a Morbidity and Mortality conference.

“I lived for the action-filled days and nights, the constant patient care, and the dedicated leadership and teaching throughout – I gained more comprehensive knowledge and understanding of the healthcare environment than I ever thought possible as an undergraduate.  Following the legacy of the world- renowned Michael E. DeBakey, I appreciated every second I spent in the Ben Taub General Hospital,” said Sato.

After graduation, Sato is attending University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. Her advice to students who are thinking of pursuing the pre-med track are taken from her father, a pediatric surgeon and CEO of the children’s specialty group at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. During freshman year Sato’s father wrote a letter that she hung them up in her room. Some words of wisdom taken from this letter include immersing yourself in the experience, taking time to listen and learn from others, and remembering it is not about how good you are, but about how good you want to be.