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Julie Tischer, a 2013 biology alumna, is a Ph.D. candidate in the Microbiology Department at the University of Georgia.

Beginning her third year in the program, Tischer is studying the CRISPR-Cas system, an adaptive immune system in bacteria and archaea, and is fascinated by the ways tiny organisms influence the planet and public health. Specifically, Tischer is studying the function of the system and how it integrates small fragments of invading genetic elements, such as viruses, into its own genome. These fragments, according to Tischer, are then used to detect the invader if it ever returns again, recruiting proteins to chop up the foreign nucleic acid.

“Microbiology in general has so many broad impacts on the world, from industry to health care,” Tischer said. “CRISPR research, specifically, is revolutionizing science through its use as a gene editing tool. The CRISPR field is rapidly moving towards possibly one day being able to cure genetic diseases, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Studying the foundational mechanisms involved in the CRISPR-Cas immune system is allowing us to try things we never knew were possible.”

Tischer’s interest in the field dates back to her seventh grade life science teacher who inspired her to study biology in college. Years later, Tischer’s interest grew into a calling as a result of the support and encouragement of Dr. Chad Sethman, associate professor of biology at Waynesburg University.

“I was particularly inspired by Dr. Chad Sethman, from whom I took many courses, including microbiology. That was my favorite course by far, and sparked my enthusiasm to pursue the field for my graduate research,” she said.

From her microbiology course, Tischer developed an interest in becoming a part of discovering how organisms function, and how they can be useful to humans, she said. According to Tischer, “each and every one of [her] professors at Waynesburg University led [her] to where [she is] today,” but scientifically speaking, she said, her biology professors, and the personal relationships she shared with each of them, helped her to develop into a “competent research scientist.”

Tischer also credits her Waynesburg University education for granting her the opportunities necessary to be accepted into a selective graduate school program.

“Choosing Waynesburg University allowed me to have a variety of experiences I probably wouldn’t have been exposed to at a large institution,” she said. “Waynesburg University provided me with all the foundational tools necessary to have a successful graduate career in research.”

Upon graduation, Tischer plans to pursue a career in teaching — a career that she says will allow her to give back to future students.

“I have had so many influential mentors and teachers in my scientific career, and I really want to make a similar impact on developing scientists. I have such a passion for helping people get excited about science and research, and love to see that moment when something finally clicks in a student,” she said.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Seth-Polk.jpgSeth Polk, a Waynesburg University biology alumnus and a first-year student at Eastern Virginia Medical School, has been inspired by the health sciences and fields involving laboratory research his entire life. Although he deems it both a blessing and curse, as a child, Seth was constantly plagued with injury (a majority sports-related) that caused him to spend an unimaginable amount of time in hospitals.

“As a result of growing up in hospitals, the hospitals grew on me,” he said.

Polk is pursuing a master’s in biotechnology at Eastern Virginia Medical School, and also plans to seek his Ph.D.  Upon completion of his education, Polk has an interest in joining the United States Navy, providing service to a country that he says “has given so much to [him].”

Polk comes by his desire to serve his country from the example set by his father, a retired United States Navy Lieutenant Commander who gave 25 years of service to his country. As a result of growing up in a “Navy family,” Polk recognizes the impact of the opportunities that potentially await him.

“The armed forces provide vast and advantageous resources for health care research,” he said.

His desire to research in the field of cell biology in relation to immunological responses can be attributed to his mother’s recent diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis.

“She gives me inspiration,” he said.

Polk undoubtedly hopes that his work will one day “uncover a cure for Multiple Sclerosis.”

Polk credits his Waynesburg University education for his preparation for graduate school and beyond.

“Waynesburg prepared [me for my future] by providing excellent practical laboratory experience while maintaining strong lecture of underlying theory,” he said.

Polk also credits unmatched professors and dedicated mentors for his research skills, his understanding of the scientific process and “the push required to mature in the laboratory sciences.”

As for his Waynesburg University experience as a whole, Polk sums it up with one word — responsibility.

"Responsibility is the word I think of when I see the Seth Polk of today versus the Seth Polk of four years ago, and I have Waynesburg to thank for that characteristic,” he said.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Rachel-Lovely.jpgThree items topped Rachel Lovely’s wish list when it came to making a decision for her undergraduate career. Her list — a solid education, a personal relationship with her professors, and an environment that would allow her to study what she loved while playing the sport she enjoyed — has proven to have contained all the appropriate qualifications to prepare her for a successful future.

“Waynesburg offered me this and then some,” she said.

Lovely, a Waynesburg University biology alumna and a first-year student at The Commonwealth Medical College in Scranton, Pennsylvania, is working toward her medical degree with the hope of one day becoming a surgeon.

The combination of growing up in a medical family and discovering her love of science has allowed Lovely to recognize her calling.

“My father is a podiatrist, so I really got a first-hand look at the humanistic side of medicine from a young age. I've wanted to be a doctor since I can remember, but when I found my niche in science, I knew it was the field I was called to,” she said.

During her college summers, Lovely periodically volunteered in the operating room, and during her junior year, she was part of an internship program called Mentoring in Medicine. These experiences revealed a more specific path and kindled her interest in the surgical field.

“There was always something magical about the operating room. It was the one place, that I saw anyway, that it was just you and the patient, no distractions. I really liked that unwavering focus,” she said.

Lovely said her Waynesburg education, coupled with the close-knit relationships with her professors, are largely responsible for paving the way to where she is today.

“I cannot boast enough about [Waynesburg University’s] Biology Department,” she said.

Specific mentions of Dr. Christopher Cink, associate professor of biology, Dr. Bryan Hamilton, professor of biology, Dr. Chad Sethman, associate professor of biology, and Marietta Wright, assistant professor of biology, further demonstrate the emphasis and importance Lovely places on relationships and how they aid success.

Lovely said that through these professors, whom she refers to as geniuses, she learned how to truly understand, not just memorize, the information taught in class. She also credits humor and dedicated mentoring for the extent of her learning.

Along with her positive experiences with faculty, Lovely credits the culture of learning at Waynesburg University for the growth she has experienced.

“Waynesburg challenged why I did things, what I believed, and even how I thought. I really liked that. It allowed me to have a deeper understanding of science, religion, psychology and just interacting with people in general. I went from Roman thinking, ‘how do you,’ to thinking more like a Greek, ‘why do you’,” she said.

In addition, Lovely said her four years at Waynesburg helped her to “have a deeper understanding of what Christianity meant personally."

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Posted by on in Alumni

Julie Tischer, 2013

Microbiology Ph.D. student and research associate at the University of Georgia

Julie Tischer, a 2013 Waynesburg University alumna, was recently published in a peer-reviewed journal as part of a research group at the University of Georgia. 

Her article, "Proteomic Analysis of the Acidocalcisome, an Organelle Conserved from Bacteria to Human Cells," was published in PLOS Pathogens, an open-access, peer-reviewed journal published monthly by PLOS, a nonprofit organization. Tischer and the additional authors studied the proteins that are on the surface of an organelle in order to determine how it functions in the cells.

The journal addressed questions such as: 

•What proteins are associated with this organelle called the acidocalcisome? 

•What are the individual functions of these identified proteins?

•Are these proteins essential for the survival of the cell?

•How are these proteins contributing to the overall activity of the acidocalcisome?

Tischer, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology, is currently a microbiology Ph.D. student and research associate at the University of Georgia. At the university, she works in the Terns lab studying the CRISPR-Cas adaptive immune system found in bacteria and archaea. 

“During my first semester, I worked diligently on the acidocalcisome project to generate data for the journal,” said Tischer. “My results during that six-week rotation went into producing a few of the figures in the paper, making me an author.”

Tischer adds that the classes and staff at Waynesburg University helped prepare her for the research program as well as her published journal article. 

“Waynesburg University set me up for success in the field of biology research by providing me with an exceptional foundation in biology education and encouraging me to pursue research opportunities beyond Waynesburg,” said Tischer. “In addition, the professional and passionate professors really inspired me to pursue a career in research and teaching.”

 

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Posted by on in Internships

b2ap3_thumbnail_King.jpgGabrielle King, senior biology major

Maryland sea grant REU fellow, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science in Cambridge, Md. 

With the iconic Chesapeake Bay as her subject of study, Gabrielle King spent her summer months as a Maryland Sea Grant REU Fellow at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES). 

A senior biology major from Clairton, Pa., King’s main responsibility was to characterize predator-prey interactions between copepod Eurytemora carolleege nauplii and Heterocapsa rotundata, both species that thrive in the Chesapeake Bay area. In order to determine interactions, King conducted grazing and survival experiments that she later presented to her co-workers at the end of the summer. 

Spending 40 hours a week at an internship may seem daunting for some students, but for King, she saw it as an opportunity. 

“I applied to my internship because I wanted to get real research experience in marine biology,” said King. “I read about potential mentors at the program who worked with plankton as well as other organisms, and that piqued my interest. I had zero experience with plankton, so I was really hoping I could do some research with them.”

Although not entirely sure what to expect, King felt confident and prepared heading into her internship because of the strong academics she received at Waynesburg University. 

“My courses gave me the background in biology that I needed in order to successfully participate in the program,” said King. “A general biology background in areas like ecology served as a basis from which I was able to build my research.”

Working with an organization centered around sustainability and the livelihoods of people, King was able to recognize the importance of service and relate it back to Waynesburg’s mission. 

“The knowledge I gained this summer not only fueled my passion for learning, but also contributed to my understanding of the Chesapeake Bay which can be used to help others,” said King. “The more we know, the better we can address issues and keep the Bay healthy.”

 

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