Biology Students Take Top Prizes in National Competitions
Fairfield biology students took home top-prizes in multiple national competitions this past month.
On April 22, Assistant Biology Professor, Dr. Jacqueline A. Vernarelli, traveled to Chicago with students Alexandra Cowan ’17, Julia DiGiovanni ’17, Stephanie Sawicki ’17, Jennifer Schwartz ’18, Angela Tacinelli ’18 and Meghan Zimmer ’18 to present their undergraduate research projects at the American Society for Nutrition's annual meeting.
Fairfield senior Alexandra Cowan beat out more than 1,000 undergraduate students, graduate students and post doctoral fellows from across the country to win second place for her faculty-mentored research on the diet quality of daily smokers and non-daily smokers versus former smokers and non-smokers. She will begin her studies as a graduate student in the prestigious Interdepartmental Nutrition Program at Purdue University after graduation.
In addition to Cowan, many other Fairfield students were selected to present their peer-reviewed research at Experimental Biology 2017, an annual life science research conference comprised of more than 14,000 scientists representing academic institutions, government agencies, non-profit organization and industry. Among them, Kristina Murray ’17, Nicholas Ragonesi ’17, Layra Cintron-Rivera ’18 and Lydia Dupree ’18, who were each awarded grants from the University’s Lawrence Scholarship Fund to support their innovative projects.
Back on the East Coast, Sawicki and Zimmer received top recognition for their nutrition epidemiology-based research at the Scientista Foundation’s third annual symposium in New York City. The two-day conference centralized 170 students, professors and scientists from institutions across the nation, many of who participated in the research poster fair competition that awarded over $2,000 in prizes.
Sawicki was awarded second place for her and Dr. Vernarelli’s research on the dietary and weight control benefits of cooking at home, while Zimmer received honorable mention for her research on the positive influence of special supplemental nutrition programs for women, infants and children (WIC) on the diet quality of low-income children.
The Scientista Foundation is a national organization dedicated to empowering young women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and hosts the only international symposium specifically for college and graduate women in STEM fields.
Other students reaching new heights in research include Elizabeth Szabo ’17, who was recently selected to present her research on the regulation of antioxidant proteins in human leukemia cells at St. Jude's Cancer Institute in Memphis this summer. Szabo, who conducted her research alongside Biology Department Chair and Professor Dr. Shelley Phelan, was previously accepted into the highly competitive Pediatric Oncology Education Program at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital last summer, where she spent 11 weeks studying the ecology of influenza.
“Our biology department, like all of our science departments at Fairfield, is proud of our inquiry-based and lab-intensive curriculum, as well as our faculty-mentored student research,” said Dr. Phelan. “Together, we are able to train students how to think critically and investigate real scientific research questions. These experiences have been critical for the vast successes our students have achieved in graduate programs and science and health careers after Fairfield.”
Pictured Above: Alexandra Cowan ’17 presents her award-winning nutritional epidemiology research at Experimental Biology 2017.