When he isn’t playing defense for the Big Red and serving as its captain, Keir Ross is on the front line of medical research. He has authored a paper on his study related to multiphoton microscopy, a laser scanning imaging method. Ross spent more than a year studying cartilage image techniques for his senior thesis.

“Keir is set to publish a first-author manuscript in 2012 for which he did all of the background research, data acquisition, data interpretation and manuscript writing,” said Dr. Lisa A. Fortier, associate professor of surgery at Cornell and Ross’ advisor.

“This is a major accomplishment for any undergraduate student, and speaks even more highly about Keir's capabilities knowing what his hockey practice schedule and pre-med class roster demand….His athletic interest and the scheduling rigors that are required to perform at his level bring a unique set of passion and talent to his work in my laboratory.”

Ross said his 3.57 grade-point average (in a major called human biology, health and society) is partly the result of discipline around the clock. He tries to get eight hours of sleep each night, which is unusual for any college student, much less someone as busy as he is.

“My freshman year, I took our team advisor’s class -- Psych 101 -- and he recommended that,” Ross said. “I know a lot of students stay up late, but I just go to bed at 11 p.m. or midnight, and I wake up early. Prioritizing like that has been huge for me.”

(That advisor, Professor James B. Maas, authored the business bestseller, “Power Sleep.” Maas is also the faculty advisor to three other Cornell teams.)

Fundamentals, like sleep, come easy to Ross because they are so much a part of what he does on the ice. His penalty-killing unit was ranked among the top 10 the past two seasons.

“It’s not always the most glorious position to be the guy working hard in the corners and for the blocked shots,” he said. “A good defenseman does the things that aren’t necessarily the most fun in everyone’s mind, but they all contribute to the team. Night in and night out, you have to be reliable at shutting down the other teams.”

By appearing in all but one of his team’s 34 games last season, Ross won the team’s Iron Man Award. The fortitude and focus carries over to his medical ambitions, too. He chose this field because he always liked science and wanted to make a positive difference in the lives of others.

“Being willing to get the job done under pressure – that another reason why I like surgery,” said Ross, who has not decided his specialty. “You have to think about the present and stay focused. You can’t be negative and avoid things.”

He scrubbed in for several eye-opening orthopedic surgeries.

“You think it’s so exact and precise, but it’s really brutal,” he said, recalling a procedure to repair a broken wrist. “I was glad I had a mask on and they couldn’t see my face underneath. I did get used to it pretty quick, and could see the decision-making and confidence needed.”

For Ross, sharpening all those skills get help from a good night’s sleep.