Saint Joseph's University

Empowered by the McNulty Scholars Program

Marisa Egan ’18 is one of the selected young women in SJU’s John P. McNulty Scholars Program. Read about her experience in the program that empowers and creates leaders out of young women in the STEM field.


As a senior, reminiscing about my journey on Hawk Hill, I am brimming with gratitude for the opportunities and experiences afforded to me. Upon reflection, I recognize and appreciate my own personal growth in my time here at SJU. I have been shaped so deeply and so positively by the people surrounding me, especially those in the John P. McNulty Scholars Program.

The John P. McNulty Scholarship is awarded to determined and qualified young women pursuing careers in the natural sciences, computer science, and/or mathematics. The program offers additional benefits to the recipients of the scholarship, including mentoring, research opportunities, and networking and career development experiences. The program’s community of supportive faculty and peers inspired me to pursue an authentic, purposeful career path of research and teaching. Their commitment inspired my own sense of purpose to make my mark on humanity, hopefully improving it in one small yet significant way through a career in research and in teaching. The John P. McNulty Scholars Program has changed me for the better, and, for that, I am eternally grateful.

Think deeply. Ask questions. Find your sense of purpose. And, most importantly, wear your title as a McNulty Scholar proudly, for while it will not be your only title at Saint Joseph’s University, it will be your most important one. As a freshman McNulty Scholar, I concentrated on the invaluable advice generously offered by the older women in the program. I looked to those upperclassmen as role models both inside and outside of the program. Each woman had blazed her own trail of academic, professional, and personal success at SJU. They were peer tutors, club leaders, lab coordinators, Hawk Hosts, student researchers, and so much more. I was in awe of their success, envious of their self-awareness, and inspired by their sense of purpose. I hoped to forge my own path of success, self-discovery, and purpose.

Heeding the advice of the McNulty women, I began thinking deeply and asking questions in the classroom my freshman year, which led me to cultivate my curiosity in the lab. In my general biology course freshman year, I grew fascinated by the scientific method. My professor, Dr. Bhatt, who became my mentor in the McNulty Scholars Program, exuded an infectious passion and curiosity for the empirical process of discovery. He encouraged us to be rational skeptics. I developed an insatiable desire to ask why and how. Following the words of the upperclassmen McNulty Scholars, I became a frequent visitor to his office hours, asking him myriad questions. Only a few weeks into the fall semester, Dr. Bhatt asked me to volunteer in his research lab.

Quickly, the lab became my favorite classroom on campus. As we worked on uncovering the genetic regulatory mechanisms of pathogenic bacteria, I was motivated by the fact that our work could amount to one small yet significant step along the journey to finding a treatment for all of the people worldwide who were infected by the pathogens we studied. During my first year in the lab, Dr. Bhatt and I engineered the very first chromosomal mutations in an emerging, diarrheal pathogen, Escherichia albertii, which is closely related to pathogenic strains of Escherichia coli. We successfully mutated its genome, which led to the publication of a peer-reviewed article, in which I was the first author. Since that summer, I have focused my undergraduate research career on uncovering the virulence repertoire of this cryptic pathogen. This, in turn, should aid in the future development of novel and effective therapies to treat diarrheal infections in developing countries caused by this pathogen.

Leadership is celebrated in the McNulty community. Local female pioneers in STEM are invited to campus to present at McNulty seminars. Through informative and honest conversations about the gender disparities within STEM fields, we are made aware of the obstacles we still face as women. Yet, more importantly, we also see all that we could achieve through strength, passion, and perseverance as women in the STEM fields.

Wearing my title as a McNulty Scholar proudly, I have accumulated my own titles as a student leader. Within the program, I spearheaded our involvement in the annual Philadelphia Science Festival (PSF). Working with other McNulty women to design an activity to teach children about the complementary nature of DNA base-pairing by making jewelry. The experience of teaching the next generation of thinkers unified us as champions of STEM education, and through events like the PSF and others, I have fostered remarkable friendships with the other women in the program. These women are part of my support system at SJU, as they challenge me to lead boldly and encourage me to defy my self-doubt. Outside of the program, I have also grown as a leader. Joining a league of other McNulty Scholars, I have become a Supplemental Instruction leader for introductory biology classes and Teaching Assistant for upper-level lab sections. I was elected to become the President of Phi Sigma Pi, the national gender

inclusive academic organization on campus, surrounded by other McNulty women in the organization who supported my leadership ambitions. These titles reflect my identity on campus, because they represent who I am as a person, as a student and as a thinker. And they all began with one single, empowering title: John P. McNulty Scholar.

Because I am a John P. McNulty Scholar, I felt empowered to ask why and how. Because I asked why and how, I became inspired by the art of experimentation and the process of discovery. Because I became inspired by the art of experimentation and the process of discovery, I became a researcher. Because I became a researcher, I became a teacher. And, because I became a teacher, I became a leader. These titles reflect my purpose on campus, because they reflect who I am as a person, as a student and as a thinker. Thanks to the McNulty Scholars Program, I found myself on Hawk Hill. The McNulty Scholars Program has changed me for the better, and, for that, I am eternally grateful.



Apply here to be a McNulty Scholar! The application deadline is January 15th, 2018.









Marisa Egan ’18 is a senior Biology major with minors in Mathematics, Philosophy, and Chemistry. She is a member of Phi Sigma Pi, Phi Beta Kappa, and Pi Mu Epsilon; she works as a Supplemental Instruction leader, Teaching Assistant, and student researcher in the Biology Department.