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2011 UAN Honor Society Inductees M - Q

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Michelle Marieni     

Michelle.MarieniMichelle Marieni grew up in Marlborough, Massachusetts, a small city in the central region of the state.  She is a senior at College of the Holy Cross majoring in biology with a concentration in Latin American Studies. She is also in the pre-medical program.      

On campus, Michelle is the president of the Nutrition, Exercise, and Eating Disorder Peer Educators group.  Michelle sings in the chapel choir for Sunday mass, works as a campus tour guide for perspective students and plays soccer.  She also volunteers weekly teaching an English as a Second Language class to immigrants.        

Michelle’s long-term career goal is to go to work as a pediatrician in a low-income urban community.  For the next two years, however, she will be teaching high school biology in the Washington, D.C. area through the program Teach For America.       

Michelle is involved in research investigating the mechanism of protein splicing in the Pyrococcus abyssi DNA polymerase II intein.  Protein splicing is a post-translational event by which an intervening polypeptide, the intein, facilitates its own excision from the flanking polypeptides, the exteins. The intein also facilitates the ligation of the exteins. Specifically, she examines the effects of various intein amino acid residues on the different steps of the protein splicing mechanism.        

The UAN has given Michelle the opportunity to present her work at the 2011 ASBMB Annual Meeting where she also participated in the poster competition.  There she met other young scientists and learned about many fascinating research projects in the field of biochemistry.  She found the experience immensely enjoyable.        

Michelle’s hobbies include jogging, art, photography and travel.  She spent part of her junior year studying in Lima, Peru.      

Michelle’s favorite science joke is: What was the biologist wearing on her first date? Designer genes!       



Casey McCormick     

Casey.McCormickCasey McCormick grew up in Monterey, TN, a small rural town with less than 3000 people. He is a senior biochemistry and health science biology major at Tennessee Tech University.  Casey is the first in his family to attend college, and he plans to attend medical school to one day work in a teaching hospital as an internal medicine specialist.    

In addition to serving as president of Tennessee Tech’s UAN chapter, Casey conducts undergraduate research in synthetic chemistry, takes part in meetings of the American Chemical Society Student Members and the Chemical-Medical Sciences Club, and serves as a tutor for introductory chemistry courses.       

Casey enjoys cooking and maintains an online recipe collection of original recipes called Kochen Briefe, German for the “boiling/cooking letters” ( He has been playing the piano for eight years and recently began taking Tai Chi.       

Casey’s research involves developing synthetic precursors for the production of gamma amino acid analogs, which are similar to gabapentin (Neurontin®) and pregabalin (Lyrica®).  He has recently submitted a manuscript for publication in the Journal of Undergraduate Chemistry Research.  He is now moving on to computational biochemistry research related to the potentially bioactive GABA analogs his research group intends produce.       

Casey attended the 2011 ASBMB Annual Meeting where he presented STEM education work that the Tennessee Tech UAN chapter has been involved in.  Casey found that being a member of UAN really encouraged him to think outside the box and helped him develop leadership skills He sincerely believes that he will be an even more productive individual as a result of the experience.     




Kevin O'Brien   

Kevin.O'BrienKevin O’Brien grew up in Cromwell, Connecticut.  He is a senior at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester Mass majoring in biology with a concentration in biochemistry.  Kevin will be attending graduate school at the University of Georgia in the fall of 2011 studying microbiology.  His hobbies are camping and hiking.  He is currently involved in research investigating protein splicing.  Kevin was able to present his work at the 2011 ASBMB Annual Meeting. 



Deborah Olmstead 

Deborah.OlmsteadDeborah Olmstead grew up in Greenwood, IN.  She is a senior Science Pre-Professional and Spanish Supplementary major at Notre Dame.    

Deborah serves as the president of Notre Dame’s Habitat for Humanity campus chapter, and spends most of her free time helping to build houses in the South Bend community.  Each fall Deborah also participates in Notre Dame’s women’s boxing tournament.   Deborah will enter the MD/PhD program at Indiana University this fall.  She plans to become a physician-scientist and hopes to run her own research lab some day.    

In addition to school and volunteer work, Deborah enjoys keeping up with the news, following her favorite NPR shows via podcast, and salsa dancing.    

Deborah conducts research in Dr. Robert Stahelin’s lab at the Indiana University School of Medicine-South Bend  studying cytosolic phospholipase A2-α and its ceramide-1-phosphate binding site.  This protein is rate-limiting step in the inflammation process.  She was able to attend the 2011 ASBMB Annual Meeting to present her work.    

Deborah’s favorite ASBMB UAN membership perk is reading ASBMB Today and Enzymatic.  Her favorite science joke is: What do you do with dead chemists?  Barium!  

Christiana Pineda  

Christiana.PinedaChristiana Pineda grew up in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts.  She is junior at the College of the Holy Cross majoring in chemistry with biochemistry and pre-medical concentrations.   Christiana hopes to attend medical school after college.  She currently conducts research in a physical chemistry laboratory studying the formation of β-sheets in tripeptides in order to better understand the aggregation of these β-sheets into insoluble fibrils and the importance of these structures in diseases such as Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s disease.  Christina plays club field hockey on the Holy Cross campus.