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2014 Honor Society Inductees D-G

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Tessa DiDonato

Tessa DiDonatoTessa knew that she wanted to be a scientist when she was twelve years old.  Prior to this point in her education, Tessa thought that everything in science had already been figured out and did not think it was interesting.  However, her eighth grade science teacher completely changed her perspective about science.  She encouraged her to do experiments, discuss any complications that arose, interpret data, and ask questions.  At Rochester Institute of Technology, Tessa did research in the lab of Dr. Suzanne O’Handley where she studied the diadenosine polyphosphatases / mRNA decapping enzymes of the Nudix hydrolase superfamily as potential novel antibiotic targets for Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Mycobacterium leprae.  Tessa has loved being a member of the UAN and the opportunities it has provided her.  She enjoyed presenting at and attending the 2013 ASBMB Annual Meeting in Boston.  She plans on attending graduate school and studying microbiology or a related field.  Her ultimate goals are to teach at the university level and do research studying the processes involved in infectious pathogens.  Outside of research, Tessa participated in numerous extracurricular activities at RIT.  She was a Resident Advisor, tutor, and volunteered at a local science museum.


Shea Feeney


Shea FeeneyShea became interested in science during her first biology class and as she went on in her science classes, she became convinced that she wanted to do research. Shea currently does research in developmental biology characterizing the role of the enzyme Porcupine in chick neural tube closure. After graduating with a double major in Biochemistry and Cell & Molecular Biology, Shea will attend a Ph.D. program in Molecular Biology to get further training in becoming a research scientist. Following this, she wants to develop a career in academia. She is the co-founder of the ASBMB UAN chapter at her school, and her chapter has worked hard to foster a network of students interested in science. However, one of the greatest benefits to her has been the community outreach activities that have exposed a younger audience to fun, edible science demos to get them interested in science at an early age. Activities such as these have helped fuel Shea’s desire to be a professor so that she can pass on an awe of science to students and still be able to research her own interests.


David Freeman


David FreemanDavid’s mother was the start of his interest in science. She was a high school chemistry teacher and so David learned some of the complex parts of chemistry prior to taking the courses. When he reached high school, he was involved in science fairs each year. After graduating, David attended Missouri Western. He already knew that he wanted to get a chemistry degree. After completing his first year and starting organic chemistry, David was ready to do more research. He has been a part of a synthesis/computational group that uses NMR for comparisons with computational results. He was also able to do research at the University of Kansas in the field of pharmaceutical chemistry. This project aimed to determine the low resolution structure of a lipoprotein that has shown to be required for infection in Lyme Disease. When he came back for his senior year, David was elected the president of the Alchemist Club. Alchemist Club and his UAN chapter work together to reach out to students of all ages and engage them in chemistry through an activity day for high school students known as Chemathon and a day for elementary students known as Super Science Saturday. After he completes graduate school at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, David’s current plan is to work in the pharmaceutical industry. Being a part of the UAN has benefited him by giving him a larger network of scientists to communicate with and providing a travel grant to attend the national meeting.


Catherine Gaissert


Catherine GaissertCatherine is a junior biology major at Marymount Manhattan College.  She is the recipient of the Trustees’ Scholarship and has been on the Dean’s List for four semesters. Her interest in research began when she volunteered in an endocrinology lab at Columbia University Medical Center under the direction of Dr. John Sanil Manavalan during the summer of 2013.  There she performed many tasks including isolating peripheral blood mononuclear cells from patient blood samples to research osteoclast precursor cells in those with osteoporosis.  She currently works with Dr. Benedetta Sampoli Benitez at Marymount Manhattan College researching the leaching of Bisphenol-A (BPA) from food cans and the link between BPA ingestion and obesity.

In addition to research, Catherine is involved in many outreach programs within her school.  As a member of the Science Society, she volunteers at open houses where she explains to perspective students the benefits of studying the sciences.  She also participates in charity events including an annual event to recruit organ donors within her school.  Catherine plans on continuing her studies in graduate school.  


Bobby Geiger

Bobby GeigerBobby first became interested in science during the summer of his sophomore year in college when he began working in a microbial genetics lab. He started working with biofilms that year and found that he enjoyed research. On campus, Bobby is a member of the Mortarboard National Honor Society and he is part of both the American Chemical Society and ASBMB UAN as well. His current career goal and dream is to work in a biodefense lab. After his undergraduate career, he plans on attending graduate school for biochemistry. In his free time, Bobby enjoys kayaking and hanging out with friends when he can. He currently works in a microbial genetics lab investigating the effects of cyclic di-GMP in Streptomyces coelicolor, and has been published in The Journal of Bacteriology. Since he started his research, Bobby has presented at the 2012 and 2013 American Society for Microbiology (ASM) national conferences in San Francisco and Denver. The ASBMB UAN chapter at Otterbein University has allowed him to experience many opportunities networking with other scientists as well as to become more engaged in research. 


Ryan Graff


Ryan GraffRyan first became interested in molecular biology in high school. A fascination with the biochemistry of life and the famous historical experiments that resulted in our modern day understanding of molecular biology led Ryan to declare a major in molecular biology and biochemistry at Wesleyan University. Ryan is now graduating with his degree one year early after three years at Wesleyan. Over his two summers in college, Ryan worked in a research lab at the University of Minnesota studying protein complexes in human leukemia cells with potential regulatory roles in cancer cell metabolism. He presented some of this research at the 2013 Harvard College Undergraduate Research Association National Collegiate Research Conference and will be using his results to write a senior thesis as a part of the honors program at Wesleyan. As a graduating senior, he now plans to spend two years working as a lab research assistant before applying to MD/PhD programs for graduate school. He hopes to then devote his life to biomedical research and the understanding of the molecular basis of disease.