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The Catalyst

Two Ph.D.’s, two dogs and a baby on the way for couple

By Ashley Barker
Public Relations

Andrew Elvington arrived at MUSC in August 2006 with the simple plan of obtaining a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences through the College of Graduate Studies. He’s graduating with far more.

After walking across the stage May 17, he and his wife, fellow MUSC-graduate Michelle Rapisardo, Ph.D., will move to St. Louis for post-doctoral fellowships at Washington University and are expecting to welcome their first child, a boy, in July.

Drs. Michelle Rapisardo and Andrew Elvington are leaving MUSC for post-doctoral fellowships at Washington University.
Drs. Michelle Rapisardo and
Andrew Elvington are leaving MUSC for post-doctoral fellowships at Washington University.

The couple met while working in the same lab under the direction of Steve Tomlinson, Ph.D., professor and vice chair for research and faculty development, Department of Microbiology and Immunology. The lab is focused on the biology of the complement system. Rapisardo’s research looked at modulating complement activation to enhance therapies for the treatment of cancer. Elvington, who joined the lab a year after Rapisardo, was mainly focused on the role of the complement system in ischemic stroke.

“Andrew and Michelle have done some outstanding science, and they have both been terrific assets to the lab,” Tomlinson said. “They have developed into very talented scientists, largely as a result of their own efforts. They also have great personalities, and I will not be alone in being very sorry to see them leave.”

Elvington and Rapisardo started off as friends. The pair would go out together in groups and dated other people for three years before Elvington finally discovered Rapisardo’s interest.

“I think she liked me. I could kind of tell. I was just a stupid boy. I ignored my feelings for a while,” Elvington said. “We hung out all the time. We had pseudo dates, which, I think, made her love me even more.”

They didn’t initially announce their relationship to many people in the 10-person lab. They continued working as usual, sitting on opposite sides of the lab but having lunch together each day. Eventually, though, the people around them started figuring it out.

“With a few exceptions, most people thought, ‘oh, were they not already dating?’” Elvington said.

“Our boss went and asked someone else in the lab if we were dating and whoever it was said, ‘yeah, they’ve been dating for a long time,’” Rapisardo, 30, said.

“He was like, ‘I thought so,’” said Elvington, 29. “About a month later, we got engaged, and when he saw the ring, he said congratulations and that he paid me too much.”

Elvington decided to abandon his original plan of proposing to Rapisardo on the beach. After having dinner with some friends one evening, the couple went back to Rapisardo’s place and while she went to the bedroom to change clothes, Elvington pulled the ring out of his pocket.

“Sadly there was no hot-air balloon or white horse,” he said. “I’m not patient, except when it comes to dating Michelle. But the longer I sat at dinner, the more I didn’t want to wait.”

He initially took the ring out and set it on Rapisardo’s bar hoping that she’d come out and see it sitting there.

“I thought, ‘well that’s stupid,’” he said. So he put the ring back in his pocket. When she opened the door, he tried to get the ring back out of his pocket but it got stuck on some string.

“Finally, very inelegantly, I proposed,” Elvington said. “I’m not even sure of the words that I said or if she even said yes. But she said, ‘I do’ at the altar, so that’s all that matters.”

Elvington and Rapisardo were married in October 2011 at St. Andrews Church in Mount Pleasant.

Now that they’ve both completed their education, they’ll begin focusing on their growing family’s 13-hour move.

“I’m relieved it’s a boy,” Elvington said. “I’d rather have a girl second, I think, because she’d control me. She could do whatever she wanted until she reached dating age then I’d never let her out of the house. I’m excited but also I’m a little bit terrified, in a good way.”

Drs. Andrew Elvington and Michelle Rapisardo pose with their dogs, Amos and Lucy.
Drs. Andrew Elvington and Michelle Rapisardo pose with their dogs, Amos and Lucy.

The baby should be about four weeks old when the family, which includes a springer spaniel named Amos and a greyhound mix named Lucy, moves to St. Louis. Rapisardo, a University of Missouri alumnus who is from St. Louis, plans to rely on her family for extra support.

“I’m definitely a little overwhelmed. We don’t have a place to live in St. Louis yet. We haven’t figured out day care yet. It’s a lot at once,” she said.

Elvington, who grew up in the small town of Dillon and went to Clemson University, will be living farther than four hours away from his family for the first time.

“They were disappointed that Michelle and I were moving farther away, especially with the new baby on the way,” he said. “Although they’d rather me be closer, their excitement has grown as time has passed, and they have already begun planning trips to visit as often as possible.”

Moving so far away will be a test of independence for Elvington, which is the most memorable thing, he said, MUSC taught him.

“In getting a Ph.D., you are basically given an idea by your boss. You take the idea and run with it. There can be varying degrees of how much you need to contribute to a project or an idea. Especially in the latter part of the time, I was the sole person responsible for getting the stuff done,” Elvington said. “Right now, we both want to be tenure track scientists. To be that, you have to be independent. When I first started, I needed to be told what to do. As my career progressed, it all kind of clicked.”

May 22, 2013

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