b2ap3_thumbnail_Onifer_Tiffany_4.jpgTiffany Onifer, a senior chemistry major at Waynesburg University, had no idea that a brief, chance meeting in March 2013 at PITTCON, the world’s largest annual premier conference and exposition on laboratory science conference, would lead to an internship and eventually, graduate school at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. 

Not knowing who they were until after the conversation, Onifer met the retired chair of Vanderbilt's Chemistry Department and Centennial Professor David Hercules and his wife at the conference. They spoke casually about the day’s session and about Onifer’s ambitions of pursuing an M.D. /Ph.D. degree. 

When the evening ended, Onifer invited the couple to attend her poster session, “The characterization of prepared immobilized β-cyclodextrin beads and their binding affinity with enkephalin neuropeptides in microdialysis sampling,” later that week. 

Onifer presented her poster session with Dr. Heidi Fletcher, assistant professor of chemistry at Waynesburg University. She and Fletcher’s Waynesburg University research on β-cyclodextrin beads has gained regional and national attention. The duo has given numerous presentations across the nation about the beads and their binding affinity. Despite her experience presenting research, Onifer was still surprised that she garnered the attention of Mr. and Mrs. Hercules. 

“They came to my session! I gave them my resume and within a week I was contacted by the head of graduate admissions at Vanderbilt,” Onifer said. “Admissions asked that I compose a list of names of faculty that I was interested in conducting research under.”  

After consulting with Hercules, Onifer created a list of four people including Dr. John McLean, associate professor of chemistry at Vanderbilt. A few days later, she received an email stating that McLean saw her resume and wanted her aboard his team.  

Just two months later, in the summer of 2013, Onifer began conducting significant research for the Systems Biology, Biological Physics and Biomedical Engineering Undergraduate Research Experience (SyBBURE) program within the Vanderbilt Institute for Integrative Biosystems Research and Education (VIIBRE) as well as analytical chemistry research under the McLean Research Group.

"My relationship with Jesus holds utmost precedence in my life; I firmly believe that God ordered my steps that day at PITTCON when I met two wonderful people from Vanderbilt,” Onifer said. “At that time, I had several health problems and could have withdrawn from the semester at Waynesburg.  God had a greater plan in mind.  He made a way for me to come to Vanderbilt and since day one in Nashville, indescribable favor has saturated me and Proverbs 22:29 has come to pass."

Her research, entitled, “The Structural Characterization of Polyurethane Precursors: Methylenedianiline Trimer and Tetramers,” analyzed polyurethane precursors using matrix assisted laser desorption/ionization ion mobility mass spectrometry (MALDI-IM MS) at Vanderbilt University.

According to Onifer, the significance of the research lies in utilizing ion mobility to identify underlying conformational isomers that could be present in the trimer and tetramer methylenedianiline (MDA) sample.  MDA is a precursor to polyurethane - a versatile substance used in the creation of medical devices and consumer products.

“Each day that I interned was a blessing because I was mentored by one of the top researchers in the country,” Onifer said. “I am growing and being molded into a real researcher, one that can take the gift of knowledge and run with it.”

She collected, tested and presented upon the data collected at Vanderbilt and communicated with other interns about the research. She also presented at the Vanderbilt institution of chemical biology.

Onifer invested hundreds of hours into her research that summer, often working late into the evenings and arriving at the lab before the 39 other SyBBURE program interns. Each day, she recited the football legend Jerry Rice’s famous quote, “Today I will do what others won't, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can't,” to focus herself. 

“The most challenging part was the amount of new material I had to learn to fully grasp the fine intricate details regarding my project,” Onifer said. 

Despite the challenges, Onifer eagerly dove into her research, refusing to quit, quite literally. She asked her internship supervisor, or principal investigator (PI), if she could stay an additional two weeks to extend the standard 10-week program. 

He obliged with an even better offer, asking Onifer if she would apply for graduate school at Vanderbilt and stay long-term. Onifer received her official acceptance into Vanderbilt’s Doctoral Chemistry Program last fall, but is still investigating her many graduate school options.  

Dr. John Williams, assistant professor of chemistry at Waynesburg University and Onifer’s academic adviser, is sure that Onifer will do well no matter where she ends up in life. 

“She is very energetic and enthusiastic about her studies,” Williams said. “She never shies away from challenges, and she genuinely learns from her mistakes. There is a wide-open future for her no matter what she wants to do.”  

Aside from the technical and scientific knowledge Onifer has gained from professors like Williams, she said that one of the greatest lessons learned at Waynesburg University is “upending the pyramid.” The concept challenges students to place others first in order to become a leader. 

“I found that at Vanderbilt, being a leader takes on many forms: being a friend, a role model, a hard worker, an honest researcher and a strong academic,” Onifer said. “But mostly, leadership is about putting others before oneself. Influential leaders at Waynesburg taught me how to integrate faith, serving and leading in a Godly way.”

 

 

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When rushing to class on a cool spring afternoon, a student, troubled by lack of plans for the upcoming summer, glanced at the ground to find a pamphlet detailing the perfect opportunity. She applied immediately, landed the internship and obtained invaluable knowledge and experience that summer. If it sounds like a scene from a movie, it isn’t. 

Jamie Piotrowski, a Waynesburg University senior sociology major with a focus in family studies, actually stumbled upon a pamphlet for Catholic Charities of Pittsburgh, Pa., that day.

“I really loved every part of the internship,” Piotrowski said. “I’ve taken classes on social work, so I used the skills learned in class in the field. It was a very easy adjustment.” 

The case intern for Catholic Charities regularly met with clients to establish life improvement goals and plans and made case notes on the clients. Her work focused on finding referrals and job opportunities for people injured, ill, homeless, out of work or otherwise disadvantaged. She also worked in the Catholic Charities' Welcome Center, where she said anything could happen. 

“People came in for referrals for other agencies, clothing, food and housing, among other things,” Piotrowski said. “This field is all about connecting with people - their feelings and just listening to them.”

Though frustrations arose with cancelled appointments, missed placement opportunities and unmotivated clients, Piotrowski said that connecting with her clients was easy considering her service experiences at Waynesburg University. 

“A mission statement like Waynesburg's encourages people to serve without judgment,” Piotrowski said. “We help people because we like to and because that's what we are called to do. It doesn't matter how people get into their particular situations, how much money they make or what kind of illness they have.” 

Waynesburg’s mission helped Piotrowski in more than one way. Not only did it guide her in meeting the needs of disadvantaged clients, but it also helped her to stand out to supervisors and colleagues. 

“Jamie was an excellent intern case worker. She showed compassion and a willingness to truly help those we serve,” said Jocelyn Bosick, program coordinator for Catholic Charities in Pittsburgh, Pa. “She was the first intern I have had from Waynesburg, and I am very impressed with the strong training she must have received to step in so effortlessly.”

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Farrell_Nick_2.JPGIn the spring of his junior year, Nick Farrell found himself sitting in a warm room, waiting to interview for an internship with his favorite sports station. Dozens of young men and women had entered and exited the room before him, all with the same nervous look and polished appearance. When Farrell’s turn came, he answered questions with confidence and experience, naming the many activities he led at Waynesburg University and referencing his famous Waynesburg professor and mentor, Lanny Frattare. After the interview, Farrell stood to shake the man’s hand who would soon become his summer internship supervisor. 

That day, Farrell earned a coveted position with KDKA, a CBS radio station in Pittsburgh, Pa., and soon began working 20 hours each week with the station. The communication (sports broadcasting/sports information) major’s responsibilities changed each day as he found himself reporting Pittsburgh Pirates and Riverhounds games for The Fan, a popular KDKA radio show, and covering the Senior Players Championship at Fox Chapel Golf Club. 

“When I was in the field covering one of those sporting events, my duties included going into the locker room before and after games and recording sound, then editing that sound for use on the air. In the studio, I normally screened calls, cut interviews and segments for reuse at a later date and I learned how to operate the sound board,” Farrell said. “A day at the ballpark/golf course included watching the events take place, taking notes and then asking intelligent questions to players and coaches.”

Though he felt incredibly prepared from his time in the Waynesburg University television studio, newspaper room, radio station and through his memberships with the University chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists and Lambda Pi Eta, Farrell said little could prepare him for the shock of interviewing some of the nation’s greatest names in sports. 

“I was pretty timid at first,” Farrell said. “Going into the Pirates clubhouse and seeing not just the players, but also the other members of the media at work, was intimidating. It took me a couple of days to work up the courage to ask questions during interviews with so many people around.”

He began preparing his post-game questions during the game and practiced “assertive asking” and “intelligent questions” on his friends and even in his mirror. By the end of the first week, Farrell felt more confident forcing himself into the “media scrum” to obtain the best sound bites for KDKA. 

“My top moment is my one-on-one interview with Pittsburgh Steelers President Art Rooney II,” Farrell said. “It was a brief interview; but it was so neat to talk to such an important sports figure and, on top of that, they played my sound on The Fan over and over that day.”

He even achieved a life goal that summer – albeit accidentally. Farrell recalled the day he was shown on SportsCenter for about 20 seconds every hour. ESPN came to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ organized team activities one day while Farrell was wrapping an interview with Brett Keisel. 

“There was a mob of media surrounding Emmanuel Sanders, a wide receiver for the Steelers. I finished my interview with Keisel, saw the media scrum, and tried to sneak my mic in,” Farrell said. “There were at least a dozen people circling Sanders and at least four other camera men, so I had to stand behind Sanders and wrap my arm around him to get my mic in the proper place.”

Midway through the interview, Farrell realized that ESPN had a camera pointed directly at Sanders with the young Waynesburg reporter’s arm around him. Sure enough, ESPN aired the interview all day with Farrell and Sanders looking like close friends. 

“That was pretty cool,” Farrell said. “Now that I’ve been on ESPN once, my goal is to get back there and stick around for more than just 20 seconds.”

As an aspiring sports broadcaster, that’s one dream that Farrell feels confident can come true, thanks in large part to his time at Waynesburg University. 

“There’s no question that I was prepared for the challenges of the internship because of my experience at Waynesburg,” he said. “My radio classes and experience as a DJ made me familiar with audio editing and engineering before I even set foot in one of the Fan’s studios. Even my print classes helped me because, in them, I learned so much about interviewing and creating an intriguing story line.”

Farrell, who’s been awarded substantial Waynesburg University scholarship money each year to total nearly half the cost of Waynesburg's tuition, says the University’s affordability was the deciding factor for his enrollment. 

“While Waynesburg is already one of the most affordable schools in the area, these scholarships made it by far the most affordable of the schools I considered, Farrell said. “The affordability, combined with Waynesburg's great staff and commitment to excellence, has made my college experience a fantastic one. I know that choosing Waynesburg for my college education is one of the best decisions I've ever made.”

That choice led him to an unbelievable internship, one that he’ll remember forever and one that will set him apart when applying for jobs. 

“I returned to Waynesburg in the fall with professional experience, a better understanding of how professional radio stations operate and new ideas for the campus radio station,” Farrell said. “I no longer have that fear of making a mistake in front of professional athletes or media. I’m a lot more confident in my skills as a writer and radio host because of my first-hand experience.”

 

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Cochran-resized.jpgWhen he respectfully declined a full ride to a large Ohio state school, many of Isaiah Cochran’s high school friends thought he was crazy. But the aspiring neurosurgeon knew that God had something better in store for him – a life changing experience at Waynesburg University. After hearing of his acceptance into Waynesburg, a school he admired for rigorous academics and faithful service, and after receiving the supreme financial security offered by the Ohio Honors Scholarship, Cochran couldn’t decline the opportunity.  

“When I was notified that I received the Ohio Honors Scholarship, I was in my high school eighth period Spanish Class. I remember crying when I heard the news,” Cochran said. “All I know is the scholarship has allowed me to do things that most college students could only dream of; it has brought me one step closer to achieving my ultimate dream of making a difference in this world. God has blessed me in way that I cannot comprehend.”

One of those blessings resulted in an esteemed internship with a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Program, an initiative sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The junior pre-med student and star Waynesburg University tennis player from Akron, Ohio, was selected from a pool of thousands nationwide to participate in the Sackler/NSF REU: Integrated Research at the Frontiers of the Biological, Physical and Engineering Sciences at Yale University's Raymond and Beverly Sackler Institute.

The Sackler/NSF REU program provides research training to students for 10 weeks under the mentorship of faculty members through research. In accordance with the program leadership team, students selected for the program choose a research project from three areas: mechanics of cellular processes, protein function and misfolding, or technology and method development for integrated research.

Cochran had the opportunity to participate in workshops and seminars ranging from laboratory methods to applying to graduate school. He also presented his work at a research symposium, which was held in conjunction with Yale's Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program and the Center of Excellence for Materials Research and Innovation (CEMRI) Center for Research on Interface Structure & Phenomena (CRISP) REU program at Yale.

“I think Isaiah made great strides, both intellectually and technically. Intellectually, I think that putting together his presentation and then getting up and presenting in front of a crowd was a great accomplishment,” Cochran’s Yale internship supervisor, Dr. Megan King, said. “In the lab, I think he gained tremendous progress in working independently and competently at the bench.”

Challenged by the meticulous work and demanding time constraints at Yale, Cochran reminded himself of the many people rooting for him and of the invaluable research experience that he would gain. Though he was surrounded by new faces in an unfamiliar lab, Cochran felt right at home thanks to his laboratory and classroom training at Waynesburg University.

“It was very challenging. Some weeks I was in the lab for 60 hours a week trying to induce a double strand break into the yeast genome,” Cochran said. “I knew it would take a lot of hard work; what I did not expect was to be so well prepared for it. I can only thank the professors at Waynesburg for my strong science background.”

During the internship, Cochran worked in a lab focusing on DNA repair pathways. His summer project included inducing the double strand so that two distinct proteins could potentially ligate the DNA back together. As DNA repair becomes more successful, Cochran said it could usurp medicine as a way to cure diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s.

“My favorite internship experience was learning and building a great foundation that I hope I can use as a clinician in neurology as well as a researcher in neurology,” Cochran said. “I also made some amazing connections. I think they will remember that a student from Waynesburg did a good job.”

With a passion for enhancing the medical world, Cochran initiated an American Medical Student Association (AMSA) chapter as a freshman at Waynesburg, but he didn’t stop there. Now a junior, he serves as a national Pre-Medical Region 1 Director for the AMSA, with responsibilities to oversee more than 105 university and college AMSA Chapters across 12 states.

“Medicine is not about self-glory; it is about doctoring, whether you have ‘Dr.’ in front of your name or not,” said Cochran. “There is a revolution coming in medicine and it is geared towards patient equality.”

He has relished the hands-on learning opportunities afforded to him at Waynesburg and has cited professors, coaches and even the President of Waynesburg University for personal help and support along the way.

“I have learned so much at Waynesburg. The professors give us a support system. They know you and they know what will make you successful,” Cochran said. “I have had this fire in me to change the world since I was in 8th grade. With the opportunities that I have been given, I know that it is just a matter of time before I do.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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b2ap3_thumbnail_LeCain_Elizabeth_7.JPGWaynesburg University compels many students to step outside of their comfort zones when applying to internship positions. But for Elizabeth LeCain, a senior forensic science major from Andover, Mass., a cross-country road trip to her research internship in Golden, Colo., didn’t scare her at all.

“Being able to drive across the country was great,” LeCain said. “I managed to see half of the states and many of the National Parks, which was just incredible.”

LeCain spent the summer of 2013 as an Undergraduate Research Associate with the Colorado School of Mines as a part of a national Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF). She synthesized one of several different monomers to create a polymer, working toward the overall goal of improving solar cell efficiency.

The senior, who is actively involved in University student chapters and activities including the American Chemical Society Student Affiliates, Gamma Sigma Epsilon Chemistry Honorary Society, Kamma Mu Epsilon Mathematics Honorary Society and serves as a lab assistant in the department of chemistry, believes that her extra-curricular studies helped secure the internship.

“Most of my time at the internship was spent trying to purify different products so that they would be of high enough quality to use in a future reaction,” LeCain said. “My favorite part was when we finally formed the polymer and were able to see it precipitate, indicating that the polymer had in fact formed.”

The process of forming the polymer required much trial and error, as well as patience, practical application and laboratory experience. Mostly, LeCain said that her classes at Waynesburg University aided immensely in her internship success.

“I learned several laboratory techniques in my labs at Waynesburg that I was able to utilize in Colorado,” LeCain said. “Also, the skills I have acquired in keeping a lab notebook and writing lab reports at Waynesburg were helpful in doing those same tasks at my internship.”

Though she expected to work in the Colorado School of Mines’ laboratories most of the summer, LeCain said she didn’t anticipate to be granted such autonomy in her research.

“I wasn't expecting to be on my own as much as I was, but that forced me to solve a lot of problems,” she said. “This reminded me that there is a reason for everything and helped me to keep an open mind toward all the changes I had to make. I was there to learn, and I was able to do that. There was a lot of new information I had to absorb and it was a challenge, but Waynesburg University prepared me for that.”

 

 

 

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