March 2016: These Are a Few of Our Favorite Things….about the McNulty Scholars Program


by Kathleen Logan, Christina Freeman and Heidi Kurn
McNulty Scholars, Class of 2016

As seniors, we have had four wonderful years at Saint Joseph’s University. The honor of being McNulty Scholars has helped make that possible. Here are some of our favorite things about being a McNulty Scholar:

  • The McNulty Program provided an immediate immersion into the SJU community and the university’s STEM community, which was especially great as incoming freshmen.
  • This program has also provided a network of like-minded mentors and peers.  Many of our professors knew who we were before we stepped foot into their classes.
  • Seminars sponsored by the McNulty Program have fostered our professional development through small-group discussions with prominent women in various STEM fields.  These presentations advocate for women and other unrepresented groups in STEM disciplines.
  • Each of us has a faculty mentor who inspires us to do more and often has connections that can assist us in our future endeavors.  However, we don’t just have one mentor.  Older McNulty studetns are always more than happy to help out with a class or give advice based on their time at SJU.
  • The McNulty Program has funded our summer research with professors through the Summer Scholars Program here on campus.  And McNulty Scholars can also receive funding for travel to academic conferences to present their research.  In fact, Christina just returned from Los Angeles where she presented her work at the Biophysical Society Annual Meeting.
  • As McNulty Scholars, we have 24/7 access to McNulty Central, a room in the Science Center just for us.  We use this space for distraction-free studying, meetings and even an occasional nap.
  • This program has brought together a wonderful group of like-minded individuals who have evolved into a family.  We try to have family dinners as often as possible so we can all spend time together.
  • One of the most important things that the McNulty Program has instilled in each of us is that we, as recipients of this gift of education, have an obligation to share our knowledge with others in some unique shape or form.  Many Scholars choose to do this by volunteering at the Philadelphia Science Festival or in smaller school-based science workshops aimed at engaging younger girls in science or math.

February 2016: Our Favorite “Headstrong” Women


by Christina Mirachi ’16, Mary Szurgot ’17, Isabella Goodenough ’16, Rachel Troxell ’16 and Anjni Patel ’17
McNulty Fellows, 2015-16

As we begin a new semester and a new calendar year, we’re seeking inspiration to help make this our best year yet.  We had the opportunity to read and discuss Rachel Swaby’s non-fiction work Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science-and the World during our McNulty Program Book club last summer, so we decided to revisit some of the women whose stories stood out and inspired us to prepare ourselves for the challenging semester ahead.

Isabella Goodenough ’16

GoodenoughblogSally Ride was constantly treated as inferior to her male colleagues, and faced relentless discrimination from fellow Americans.  Her skill was never at the forefront; rather her gender was.  While she flew through space training with ease, she was constantly challenged with sexist and stereotypical comments about her competence as an astronaut. “Would or wouldn’t she wear a bra in space?” “Did she cry over her mistakes?”  As irreverent and insulting as these comments would be, she never let them affect her.  When her gender was brought up as a measure of competence, she would extend the reminder: “weightlessness is a great equalizer.” *

While many of us know Sally Ride as the first female astronaut, what many of us fail to recognize is how she got there.  She never went into astrophysics or even the astronaut corps to become a role model. Rather her career was driven by her insuppressible motivation to unveil the unknown.  She was skillful and driven, and while her gender proved to be a major hurdle as she advanced in her field, she never allowed inequality to weigh her down.

* Full quote: “Our training (at NASA) is asexual.  Women and men go through exactly the same jobs on orbit.  Weightlessness is a great equalizer, you don’t have to be strong up there.”  — Sally Ride, July 2012

Mary Szurgot ’17

SzurgotblogGertrude Belle “Trudy” Elion refused to take no for an answer.  As a woman seeking to enter graduate school during the Great Depression, she found that what little funding was available in universities was reserved for men.  In the workforce, she was told that she would only be a distraction in an all-male lab.  In the face of this adversity, however, she remembered the loss of her grandfather to stomach cancer and she remembered her calling to devote her life to the alleviation of such pain and loss.  She remained patient and took jobs working in reception and quality control until she was eventually hired by the Burroughs Wellcome Company to work on drug development.

Working alongside George Hitchings, Elion took a different approach to the field by examining the biochemical differences between healthy and diseased cells and developing treatments, which would chemically target specific problems.  She developed effective treatments for diseases such as leukemia, gout, and shingles and alleviated pain and loss in the lives of many.  Trudy Elion may have faced discrimination and rejection regularly and she may never earned her PhD as a result, but she never gave up.  She has a Nobel Prize to show for it.

Christina Mirarchi ’16

MirarchiblogEllen Swallow Richards advocated for women to learn science and worked towards better health for people.  Richards was the first woman admitted to MIT, where she earned a PhD in chemistry and later became the first female professional chemist.  However, MIT did not want this accomplishment to lead to other women’s admittance to the University.  To increase support for women at MIT, Richards began a Women’s Laboratory as part of a science program for women, which eventually paved the way for MIT accepting women into the standard program.

Richards educated women both inside and outside the lab on science, but also on nutrition and how to take care of oneself.  She opened a kitchen that instructed healthy food preparation and provided meals to school children.  Richards was also very involved with water sanitation and worked to test water from different sources to ensure that it was safe to drink.  This initiative set standards for water testing and quality control across the United States and eventually globally.

Rachel Troxell ’16

TroxellblogLeprosy plagued the residents of Hawaii, with many afflicted by this living death. Individuals who were diagnosed with this horrible disease were ripped from their homes, arrested and relocated to Kalaupapa. Leprosy attacks the skin, mucous membranes, and peripheral nerves. The only treatment that alleviated the suffering caused by this disease was the oil from the seeds of a chaulmoogra tree. However, delivery methods for this remedy were highly problematic.

Alice Ball began working with Harry T. Hollmann to develop an injectable therapy for leprosy from chaulmoogra oil. She earned a degree in chemistry in 1912 and a degree in pharmacy in 1914, both from the University of Washington. She had published her work in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, and was the first woman and first African American to receive a master’s degree in chemistry from the College of Hawaii in 1915. After much hard work and dedication, Ball was able to transform the chaulmoogra oil into an injectable treatment that the body would absorb. She was the first person to successfully prepare the oil in such a form, and made this scientific breakthrough when she was just 23 years old. Her preparation of the chaulmoogra oil was able to alleviate the suffering of many individuals diagnosed with leprosy, and eventually to provide a cure.

Anjni Patel ’17

PatelblogWhen entering the science field, one of the main commitments one makes is to dedicate herself and give herself fully to the profession. Many people take this commitment lightly. However, a woman by the name of Gerty Radnitz Cori took this commitment and ran with it, full force. Gerty Cori typically worked with her husband in the lab, with an interest in discovering facts about the way the body functions. Together, they revealed many secrets about basic biological processes such as how the body uses the food we eat to make energy. They were able to make the first bioengineered glycogen, a form of sugar that is stored in your body and used for energy later on. During this time however, Gerty Cori was diagnosed with a rare form of anemia which required her to have blood transfusions every week and made it difficult for her to get around. Even though her body was deteriorating, she never gave up. She placed a cot in the room next to her lab and, with the help of her husband, served the world of science until she passed away in 1957.

When Gerty Cori entered the science field, she vowed to dedicate herself completely to her work. And, that is exactly what she did.

December 2015: Thoughts on Intellectual Curiosity


by Abigail Sweetman, Marisa Egan and Shelley Donaldson
McNulty Scholars, Class of 2018

It’s the holiday season, and we’ve got one week to go before we’re back home with our friends and family, answering this one question countless times:

“What are you studying?”

This is usually a one-word answer, but as we use our learning to develop into multidisciplinary, curious, and impassioned adults, this answer has many limitations. As women of math and science, we embrace our intellectual curiosity as a method of learning more about ourselves, more about our fields, and, most importantly, more about the world around us.

Marisa Egan

eganblogMathematics and biology invigorate my intellectual curiosity on a daily basis. Courses such as Differential Equations and Organic Chemistry fuel my academic passions. However, they do not entirely encapsulate my intellectual interests. Prior to this semester, I felt as though I would forever be intellectually satisfied by my math and science courses. Yet, I was pleasantly surprised when I found yet another academic concentration that captivated my curiosity: philosophy.

Every Moral Foundations class this semester filled me with a sense of purpose. Our class discussions always carried a significance that extended beyond the classroom walls. No other class had ever felt so relevant to me before Moral Foundations. As we pondered topics ranging from daily moral choices to the gravity of absolute poverty, I became irrevocably fascinated by the study of philosophy. My Moral Foundations class changed me as a thinker, as a student, and as a human being. My professor taught me that approximately eleven children die a minute in absolute poverty from preventable causes. That is not a statistic that I am willing to live with; so now, I try to orient my life in a direction that prevents some form of absolute poverty. Currently, I am focusing on passionately raising awareness about the gravity of absolute poverty and urging others to contribute to worthy causes, such as the “Giving What We Can” movement. My philosophy class reminded me to always consider the true meaning of success, as summarized by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poem entitled “Success.”  The last two lines resonate the most with me. They represent the magic of life, that is to change someone else’s world for the better. I intend to take as many Philosophy classes as I can, as a student at Saint Joseph’s University, because my intellectual curiosity does not merely begin and end in the realm of science and mathematics.


To laugh often and much;

To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;

To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;

To appreciate beauty,

To find the best in others,

to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child,

A garden patch or a redeemed social condition;

To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.

This is to have succeeded.

Abbie Sweetman

sweetmanblogI’ve never found myself a strict adherent to one intellectual pursuit. In some regards, I’m a bit of an academic infidel. But I’ve never really seen it as infidelity. STEM fields can sometimes be very stigmatized as disciplines that require certain ways of thinking or certain strengths. While development of specific practice is crucial to any STEM field, I reject any notion of exclusivity. Yes, it’s true that certain people are attracted to these jobs. But we’re so much more than people who hold pipettes and calculators. And, while I wholly support the idea that McNulty Scholars can rock lab coats and safety glasses better than just about anyone (maybe I’m biased), STEM field hopefuls benefit from other fields of study. We’re not just mathematicians. We’re not just scientists. We’re historians, writers, artists, political activists, and, most of all, thinkers. The element of multidisciplinary and creative thought is integral to success in math and science.  Revolutionary thought doesn’t emerge from people who just learn what other people teach. It comes from taking things learned and synthesizing them in different ways to find something new. Personally, you’ll find me absorbed in South Asian History or wielding a blowtorch or in the perpetual search of a perfect red lipstick. Intellectual curiosity doesn’t make us unfocused- it makes us more whole.

Shelley Donaldson

donaldsonblogAs a math major, I am rarely satisfied when a professor simply presents me with a formula and tells me which values to plug in to get the answer. I am always yearning to know more: how does one derive the given formula? What are the theories that support the use of this method in practice? For me, this constant desire for deeper understanding persists outside of the classroom and beyond my declared academic interests of math and computer science. At any point in time, any given thing might peak my intellectual curiosity, consuming my thoughts and preventing me from focusing on anything else until my curiosity has been satisfied.

A perfect example: just last night I was preparing shrimp scampi with rice, a gourmet meal for any college student. As I chopped up onion after onion for the scampi sauce, I became fascinated with the layers of the onions and began to wonder how exactly the layers formed. I couldn’t wait until after my meal to find out, so while the sauce simmered, I propped up my laptop on the edge of the counter and began Googling. A quick search of “how do onions grow?” yielded such unhelpful answers as “with lots of room and plenty of sunlight,” but I was not discouraged. Twenty minutes and many Google searches later I finally came across a post on Reddit that explained that the layers of an onion grow from the inside out, and described the biological reasons behind this process. Only after having found my answer could I move on with my evening and eat my dinner. Onion layers was yesterday’s spontaneous intellectual pursuit. It’s anyone’s best guess which of the world’s wonders will inspire my intellectual curiosity tomorrow.

November 2015: A Call to Action–If We Could Bring About a Change for Women, What Would It Be?


by Jane Bukovec, Sarah Cooney, Courtney Hulbert, Valerie Jenkins, Karen Medina and Marissa Tremoglie
McNulty Scholars Program Class of 2017

Last week, the film Suffragette, depicting the women’s suffrage movement in Britain, was released.  The powerful film highlights the importance of the vote and the changes it allowed women to make in their lives, as well as the very real consequences suffered by those who chose to join the movement.  Besides being imprisoned, many were ostracized by their communities, lost their jobs, or lost their families.  Some even lost their lives.   However, without the enormous sacrifices of these women, our lives would look nothing like what they do today, and our opportunities would be incredibly limited.

One of the most wonderful aspects of the McNulty Program is the caring and supportive community of peers and mentors.  As a group, we are committed to building one another up and cheering each other’s success.  In this environment, we are able to thrive as women and scientists.  The number of opportunities we are given make the possibilities seem infinite.

Unfortunately, the real world hasn’t quite caught up.  The STEM fields are just a few of many parts of the world that are not always friendly to women.  According to data from the Half the Sky Movement, “Women comprise 70 percent of the world’s poorest people and own only 1 percent of the titled land…They suffer not only from unequal access to education and training, but also from discrimination by their employers. The majority of women earn on average about three-fourths of the pay that men receive for doing the same work, outside of the agricultural sector, in both developed and developing countries.  Gender-based violence is both persistent and widespread, and ranks as the top public health crisis for women in the world today…women aged 15 through 45 are more likely to be maimed or die from male violence than from cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined.”

As future leaders, we need to be prepared not just for our individual careers, but to become agents of change for all women.  The suffragists won us the vote, but their battle isn’t really over.  It is up to us to use what they won and to continue the crusade for women’s rights.    The task may be daunting, but the results are worth it.  To inspire us to dream big and beyond ourselves, we asked ourselves if we could bring about a change for women today, what would it be?

Jane Bukovec 

BukovecI would give all women access to education and health care. I think these are extremely important prerequisites to economic and political involvement. We might take these for granted in the US, but women without these in other parts of the world don’t stand a chance. At SJU, we are lucky to be able to aid in these efforts, particularly in programs like PAGES (Philadelphia Area Girls Enjoying Science) and The Philadelphia Science Festival. Exposing young girls, particularly those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged, to the possibility of further education is incredibly important.

Valerie Jenkins

JenkinsI would change the way that women interact with one another by increasing support among women for each other’s accomplishments. I would want women to eliminate the competitive nature that separates us and instead practice supportive relationships that build us up.

Marissa Tremoglie

tremoglieblogI think that there’s this prevailing misperception in our generation that to make significant change we have to rebel and buck the system. Put simply, we sometimes forget that we have this incredible power in our society that so many others globally do not possess; we get to vote. We get to have a voice. If everyone in our generation felt empowered, felt as if their voices mattered, as though they were heard, imagine the change we could effect. Imagine the fair representation of women’s issues and women’s voices on all levels. Important and relevant issues like paid family leave, the monetization of women’s work globally and the right to health care could become a reality if we all went to the voting booth, even in local elections. We have an incredible gift in democracy and it’s up to us to use it, to make our voices and the voices of the disenfranchised heard. SJU does incredible social advocacy work, with programs like the Ignatian Family Teach-In, Service Immersion Abroad and Study Tours. The ability to expose students, many of whom come from privileged backgrounds, to the reality of life for so many people globally builds the kind of empathy that motivates lasting social action.

Courtney Hulbert 

hulbertblogI would change the sense of doubt placed on women when they are following their dreams. (That little voice that says “Are you sure you have thought that all the way through?”) Often times, women are faced with questions instead of support. The beautiful part of it is that we can begin the change–by encouraging and supporting one another, we allow for the change to begin.

Karen Medina

medinablogIf I could change something I would change how women are viewed, as in not being stereotyped or not being harshly judged for how we dress or what we decide to do when it comes to personal decisions. I get that there’s a time and place for everything and certain expectations for decorum, but the expectations for women are often too high and not the same for men. And while we’ve made progress here in the states, not everywhere in the world sees women the same way. Not every culture appreciates our contributions to society. Not every culture attempts equality. The McNulty Scholars Program has taught me that women have so much potential and there’s so much for us to do. We make a difference by learning how our Jesuit values apply to our lives. By living greater as women, we learn how to work alongside men as equals and to encourage other women to achieve their dreams, particularly through mentorship.

Sarah Cooney

cooneyblogI would give girls worldwide access to education, specifically targeting literacy and access to books. I’ve learned more than I can articulate just by reading. Books are windows into the world and experiences that you many never access any other way. I believe women are naturally capable, and access to knowledge is all they need to start dreaming of and realizing new ways of changing the world.

October 2015: A Review of Photograph 51 by the Lantern Theater Company, Philadelphia PA


By Ashley Frankenfield, Elise Brutschea, Lakshmi Narayanam, Kaleigh Williams and Jamilyn Mooteb
McNulty Program, Class of 2019

Photograph 51 is a play written by Anna Ziegler and directed by Kathryn MacMillan. The play follows Rosalind Franklin, a hardworking female scientist, who is overshadowed by the men of her time as she tries to determine one of life’s greatest mysteries: DNA.

Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins took a photograph of a DNA sample taken from a human calf tissue which showed an ‘x’ image to the naked eye. To Franklin and her partner, Wilkins, and their colleagues, Drs. Watson and Crick, this was a breakthrough. The photograph, named Photograph 51, confirmed the scientists’ theories that the DNA was a double helix.

The double helix shape or corkscrew shape helped answer some of the questions that scientists of the time had. How does the ‘gene’ get copied and passed with few mistakes? What would be the ideal shape for the gene to copy? What is the makeup of the DNA? The genes that make up a person’s characteristics had to be copied easily and exactly with few problems. They also had to be arranged in a certain way. The corkscrew shape shows a winding ladder with the genes on one side of the ladder connecting to the genes on the other side. When they are to be copied, they simply unzip and split into two strands.

With this new information on how DNA is shaped, biologists and other scientists have a better understanding of how life forms and evolves. This finding helped people understand why people have certain genes and why certain genes die out. Understanding the structure of DNA helps biologists and chemists find ways to develop better medications and it furthers their understanding of life’s smallest structures.

In plays it is the actors who either make or break a story. Through the use of emotion, different elements of a person’s life are exposed and a play becomes more engaging. During Photograph 51, the cast expertly put emotions into their dialogue. They were able to make the audience laugh and be serious at the same time. After seeing this play, we can say that without this cast, the play would not have had as powerful of an impact. Genevieve Perrier, who played Rosalind Franklin, perfectly captured what it was like to be a woman in science at this time. Women have in the past and continue to be viewed as incapable of solving problems. Perrier was able to show how Franklin felt being constantly questioned about her work. Also, Perrier was able to demonstrate Franklin’s wit when talking to other characters. In a laboratory scene, Perrier was able to put on a hard front and focused only on the work Franklin would have been doing; however, while on a date she was able to show how Franklin wasn’t just a cold-hearted woman. Without Genevieve Perrier, Franklin’s life would not have been communicated so well to the audience.

When people hear about the story of Rosalind Franklin, they do not fully comprehend her circumstances, and the play was able to portray all of it.  It showed how Rosalind was wrongfully cheated of getting credit for discovering the structure of DNA. Since her reaction to being cheated is unknown, the play fictionalized Rosalind’s reaction choosing to make her not mad at Watson and Crick for stealing her picture but disappointed in herself for not seeing it first.  In addition, it was very interesting to learn about the love triangle between Rosalind Franklin, Maurice Wilkins, and Raymond Gosling, which is never metioned in Biology textbooks.  The play Photograph 51 added context and emotion to the story.

Rosalind was known to be indifferent and cold, but this was simply a defense mechanism against the men who believed that her gender made her inferior.  Her passion for science and discovery is emotionally compelling.  Rosalind Franklin should be remembered as a courageous and independent woman who had to be brave and stubborn to get as far as she did in her scientific career.  Photograph 51 was a great play to watch to learn about the story of the discovery of the structure of DNA; it was historically accurate, but also had humor, emotion, and character.

September 2015: Our Senior Year Bucket List


By Kathleen Logan, Christina Freeman and Heidi Kurn
McNulty Scholars, Class of 2016

As the McNulty Scholars Program Class of 2016, we cannot believe that we are seniors already!  It seems like just yesterday we were moving into our freshman dorms, getting lost in Barbelin, and trying our first hawk wrap.

With the start of our last year on Hawk Hill, there are still so many things that we want to do before we graduate. So here is our “SJU Bucketlist” to help us keep track of all the things we have to do this year.

  1. Climb to the top of the bell tower
  2. Go on the roof of the Science Center
  3. Watch the sunset from the top of Hawk’s Landing
  4. Eat a hawk wrap for breakfast, lunch, and dinner
  5. Have a picnic on the St. Mary’s lawn
  6. Hold a face sign of a basketball player during a game
  7. Attend a basketball tournament
  8. Play wiffle ball under the lights of Sweeney Field
  9. Run from SJU to Manayunk and back
  10. Swim in the O’Pake pool
  11. Win Quizzo at Landmark
  12. Go to Christmas dinner at the dining hall
  13. Drink milk, eat cookies, and watch movies with the Milk, Cookies, and Movies club
  14. Read every edition of the Hawk
  15. Go sledding by Sweeney Field
  16. Take a nap in the Science Center
  17. Go to a conference to present research
  18. Attend the spring concert
  19. Go to the Holy War
  20. Join a new club

Our last year is going to be a busy year!