Words from McNulty Scholars

Leona Ryder ’18, B.S. in Biology

Leona Ryder will graduate next week with a B.S. in Biology and minors in Chemistry and Interdisciplinary Health Services.

A member of the McNulty Program for two years, Leona worked closely with biologist Dr. Catalina Arango to conduct research on the bacterium Sinorhizobium meliloti, specifically how proteins are encoded to transport and break down a-galactosidases.  Leona presented her work last June at the Northeastern Microbiologists: Physiology, Ecology and Taxonomy Conference in Blue Mountain Lake, NY, as well as at the Summer Micronet Symposium in July 2017.  Last year, she received a Local Sigma Xi grant to help fund her research, and this work culminated earlier this month with the defense of her honors thesis.

At SJU, Leona is a recipient of the Maguire College Scholarship, a two-year scholarship awarded to select students from one of the Faith in the Future high schools who have demonstrated strong academic and service records during their time on campus.  Leona has served as a research lab mentor in Dr. Arango’s lab and as a Biology Stock Room assistant.   She is involved in the Molloy Chemical Society and the Biology Club, and served as a Peer Mentor to two biology students through the McNulty Scholars Peer Mentoring Program.  She has been inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, the Sigma Zeta National Honors Society for Mathematics, Computer Science and Natural Science, and the Alpha Epsilon Delta International Pre-Health Honor Society.  Leona is also a member of the national and local chapters of the Sigma Xi Research Honor Society.

After graduation, Leona plans to spend a year preparing for medical school by taking the MCATs, completing EMT-certification training and finding work in either the healthcare or clinical research arena.

Best wishes, Leona!  We will miss seeing you around the hallways of the Science Center!

Shelley Donaldson ’18, B.S. in Mathematics

It’s that bittersweet time of year when we highlight the accomplishments of our graduating class of McNulty Scholars and Fellows before we have to bid them farewell.  It’s never easy for us to say goodbye, but we are so excited about what the Class of 2018 has in store for them.

Shelley Donaldson will graduate Saint Joseph’s University with a B.S. in Mathematics and minors in Computer Science and Philosophy.

While at SJU, Shelley was very focused on using her math and computer science background to pursue off-campus internships.  She served as an intern at cyber-security firm RedJack in Silver Spring, MD, where she collaborated on two different network security projects.  She was a philanthropy leadership intern at FADICA (Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities) in Washington, DC, where she analyzed data and co-wrote a report on anti-trafficking activities across 100 college campuses nationwide.  Most recently, she has been providing data management assistance to the Philadelphia Youth Network, Inc.

On campus, Shelley was a Supplemental Instruction Leader in the Mathematics Department and eventually assumed the role of Supplemental Instruction Mentor to support the work of the other leaders in the department.  She completed a summer research project in mathematics to develop a MATLAB code base  that results in an efficient multi-objective optimization algorithm.  She studied abroad in Paris during her junior year, completing coursework at The American University of Paris.  And she was also nominated to several national honor societies, including Phi Beta Kappa, Upsilon Pi Upsilon, the computer science honor society, and Pi Mu Epsilon, the honorary mathematics society.

After graduation, Shelley will relocate to Silver Spring, MD, where she has been hired by RedJack as a Junior Software Developer.

Congratulations Shelley!!! We will miss you!!!


McNulty Fellows Natalie Barrett ’18 and Amelia Brown ’18 present at Experimental Biology 2018

McNulty Fellows Natalie Barrett ’18 (Biology) and Amelia Brown ’18 (Biology) traveled to San Diego, CA last month to present their research at Experimental Biology 2018. Natalie and Amelia have worked together in the laboratory of biologist Dr. Matt Nelson, Assistant Professor of Biology and Director of the Animal Studies Program here at Saint Joseph’s University.

Natalie’s presentation focused on her research into understanding how sleep is regulated at the molecular level.  Using C. elegans nematodes, she focused on the regulation of one type of sleep behavior called stress-induced sleep, a response that is induced after the worms are exposed to stressful environments.  Amelia’s work explored the interaction between C. elegans nematodes and the fly Drosophila suzukii, and how these behaviors might help C. elegans escape unfavorable environmental conditions.

Representing the McNulty Program One Last Time Before Summer!

Last weekend was quite a busy one for McNulty students!  First, on Saturday, the McNulty Scholars Program sponsored a booth at the Philadelphia Science Festival, sponsored by the Franklin Institute on the Ben Franklin Parkway.  This year, our project combined biology with “bling,” teaching school-age children about DNA structure using color-coded beads to make bracelets. Kaleigh Williams ’19 (Biology) and Amelia Bielefeld ’20 (Biology) organized the booth!!!



Then on Sunday, Annamarie Glaser ’20 (Biology) and Emily Lehman ’21 (Physics) staffed the McNulty Program table at SJU’s annual Spring View Open House. They had an opportunity to meet with high school students interested in learning more about the Program’s focus on Women in STEM!  Thank you for being such great ambassadors, ladies!

It’s Award Season for the McNulty Scholars Program!

We are pleased to announce the following McNulty Scholars have received prestigious awards:

Marisa Egan ’18 (Biology) has been selected to receive a 2018 National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship in recognition of her “demonstrated potential to contribute to strengthening the vitality of the US science and engineering enterprise.”  Marisa was one of 2,000 fellowship recipients, in a pool of 12,000 applicants, and will receive a 3-year stipend to underwrite her graduate work.

While at SJU, together with mentor Dr. Shantanu Bhatt, assistant professor of biology, Marisa engineered the first chromosomal mutations in an emerging  pathogen, Escherichia albertii. She has since focused on uncovering the virulence repertoire of this pathogen, which should lead to the development of effective therapies to treat diarrheal infections in developing countries.

After graduating in May, Marisa will go onto the University of Pennsylvania to pursue a Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Biology.

Elise Brutschea ’19 (Chemistry) is the recipient of two recent awards that recognize her academic achievements and accomplishments in undergraduate research.

First, Elise has been selected as a 2018 Barry Goldwater Scholar, one of 211 undergraduates nationwide to receive funding to underwrite research.  The Goldwater Scholarship, started in 1989 by Congress to honor Senator Barry Goldwater, is the most prestigious U.S. undergraduate scholarship in Math, Engineering, and the Natural Sciences, and offers funding to sophomore and junior students who show academic promise and intend to pursue graduate research in STEM fields.

Elise also received an American Chemical Society (ACS) Division of Organic Chemistry Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship to support her research this summer. Under the mentorship of Dr. Mark Forman, Professor of Chemistry, Elise will use electrochemistry to synthesize a pyramidalized alkene, hopefully producing a new, easily reproducible electroreduction reaction that can be used by other organic chemists.

Elise plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Chemistry and a career in research.

McNulty Students Out and About As Spring Finally Arrives

It’s been a busy week for the McNulty Scholars Program.

First, last Saturday April 7, we returned to Chestnut Hill College to participate in another PAGES (Philadelphia Area Girls Enjoying Science) mini-conference.  Elise Brutschea ’19, Maria Johnson ’21 and Thi Nguyen ’21 worked with 6th grade girls interested in STEM to explore why ocean currents rise and fall using paper cups, a fish tank full of water, salt and food coloring.

On Tuesday April 10, McNulty women joined Dr. Angiolillo to attend WomenWoke, sponsored by the Pedro Arrupe Center for Business Ethics and the Erivan K. Haub School of Business here at SJU.  This event featured Mary Lou Quinlan ’75, author, actor, speaker and women’s right advocate, who spoke about feminism, breaking glass ceilings and starting her own business.  It was a provocative presentation that fueled a post-lecture dinner for Dr. Angiolillo, Jamilyn Mooteb ’19, Emily Lehman ’21, Zoe Mrozek ’21 and Thi Nguyen ’21.

Parting Words from the Class of 2018

L-R: Abigail Sweetman, Marisa Egan & Shelley Donaldson

Marisa Egan (Biology):  As a now second-semester senior, I find myself thinking about all of my fond memories on Hawk Hill.  Upon reflection, I realize the impact of the academic experiences afforded to me by SJU.  To say that these opportunities have merely helped me grow would be a grave understatement.  Rather, they have changed my life.

Because of my time as a student researcher, a teaching assistant (TA) and a supplemental instruction (SI) leader, I have redefined my academic and personal goals.  Moreover, the students and the professors here are extraordinary, exemplifying an unparalleled commitment to serving the world–with and for others. Their commitment inspired me to make my own mark through a career in research and teaching.

My advice to the incoming McNulty freshmen?

  • Fall in love with learning, both inside and outside the classroom!
  • Explore your academic interests. Declare a few minors…I have three! As college students, we have the rare opportunity to learn from impassioned, inspiring leaders in their fields.
  • Find your purpose and inspire others to find theirs.


Shelley Donaldson (Mathematics):  With May just around the corner, I’ve been constantly fielding the question “Are you ready to graduate?” The answer is yes, I am absolutely ready to move into the next chapter in my life, but there are many things I will miss about SJU. I will miss talking about music in the library with the other math majors when we should really be studying.  I will miss chatting with the professors who care so deeply about my education and success.  I will miss the view of Overbrook Pizza from my apartment window.  I will miss this city.  But above all else, I’ll miss the culture of service and social justice that permeates the campus.

I began my career at SJU with the Philadelphia Service Immersion Program (PSIP), which is an early move-in program where freshmen learn about Philadelphia through community service. My group learned about food justice while working in a community garden in a part of Philadelphia where affordable, fresh food is not easily accessible.  PSIP was the perfect beginning to four years of learning about social justice and solidarity, as well as truly being in community with others.

Inspired by PSIP, I signed up to go on APEX, a spring break service immersion trip in the Appalachian region. Since freshman year, APEX has taken me to West Jefferson, North Carolina; Bluefield, West Virginia; and Clifton Gorge, Virginia.  Each APEX trip presented unique lessons, challenges and opportunities for growth, and cannot be summed up into words.  I have trouble imagining my time in college without these trips.

APEX gave me the opportunity to meet and connect on a deeper level with fellow students who shared my passion for social justice.  I was able to engage in meaningful conversations with members of the communities we were serving–conversations that taught me about the complexity and nuances of our country’s political and economic landscapes. Because I participated in APEX each year, spring break always became an intentional time to reflect, ground myself, be fully attentive and present to those around me, and marvel at our shared humanity. I attribute much of my personal growth in college to these annual trips, and it is my hope that wherever my post-grad life takes me, I’ll be able to find people just as committed to service and social justice as in APEX and the broader SJU community.

McNulty Students Ashley Frankenfield ’19 and Elise Brutschea ’19 Present at ACS National Meeting

Ashley Frankenfield ’19 (Chemical Biology) joined colleagues David Deysher, Mary Lockwood, Thomas S. Nagle and Kimberly Wodzanowski to present at the national American Chemical Society meeting in New Orleans in late March. Their work was carried out under the mentorship of Associate Professor Jose Cerda, Department of Chemistry. Ashley presented their poster, which was entitled, “Study of the thermodynamics of fluoride-binding to understand the differences in the (heme pocket) structure and function of hemoglobin, myoglobin, and horseradish peroxidase.”

Elise Brutschea ’19  (Chemistry) also presented at the national American Chemical Society meeting. Her work was carried out under the mentorship of Professor Mark Forman, Department of Chemistry. Elise’s poster was entitled, “Synthesis and reactions of pentacyclo[,4.03,8.05,7] non-4-ene.”

This summer, both Ashley and Elise will continue their research on campus. Ashley will shift her focus to the use of flouride-binding  by the clam Lucina pectinata to prevent cytotoxicity.  And Elise will use electrochemistry to synthesize the pyramidalized alkene, hopefully producing a new, easily reproducible electroreduction reaction that can be used by other organic chemists.

McNulty Fellow Amelia Brown ’18 publishes article in online Drosophilia Information Service

McNulty Fellow Amelia Brown ’18 (Biology) is a co-author on a paper published in the December 2017 edition of Drosophilia Information Service entitled “The use of 3D printing to facilitate Drosophilia behavior research.”  Specifically the paper highlights how consumer-level 3D printers and design software are supporting research in D. suzukii’s feeding preferences and ability to act as vectors for nematode dispersal.   This research was done under the guidance of several professors in the Biology Department, including Dr. Jonathan Fingerut, Professor and Director of Environmental Science and Sustainability Studies; Dr. Matt Nelson, Assistant Professor and Director of the Animal Studies Program; and Dr. Scott McRobert, Professor.

McNulty Class of 2020: How We Eat Right to Stay Healthy in College!

by Amelia Bielefeld, Annamarie Glaser and Lindsay Miller

As college students, returning to campus after winter break can be stressful and overwheming, with classes, work, labs and the multitude of other activities we are all involved in. Running around campus, it’s easy to forget to eat, let alone eat properly. The pressure of New Year’s Resolutions helps to hold us accountable with our diets and exercise (at least in January), but as the weeks go on, these resolutions get lost.  It’s easy to settle for convenience over health.

However, we know we perform our best when we feel our best, so it’s important to prioritize self-care and health.  Now that we’re sophomores, we all have kitchens in our apartments and we can cook for ourselves. We love having control over what we eat and how prepare it.  Below are some of our go-to recipes for healthy meals:


Annamarie Glaser (Biology): With my busy schedule, I’ve sadly found it hard to cook in my apartment this year.  However, when I do find time in the morning, one of my favorite breakfasts is a bowl of steel cut oats packed with fruit; it’s a really delicious but simple meal that keeps me full through back-to-back classes, and it gives me the energy to start my day!

Steel-Cut Oats with Fruit

Ever since I was young, I have always preferred to cook my own oats, as opposed to using instant oatmeal. It takes much longer to cook, but the taste and texture are worth it, not to mention that instant oatmeal can have extra sugar and other unhealthy additives.  To start, I boil 1 1/2 cups of water on the stove in a saucepan. Once the water has started boiling, I lower the temperature and add about a 1/4 cup of oats.  The oats can take anywhere from 25 – 40 minutes to cook.  To prevent them from burning, I stir them for a few seconds every 5 minutes.

Once the oats have about 5 minutes left, I add in fruit, usually about 1/2 cup of raspberries and blueberries and 1/2 of a banana, sliced.  Stir them so the oats can absorb some of the fruit flavors. Once the oats are done cooking, let them sit for 5-10 minutes to cool.  And then….EAT!

The best part of this meal is that it’s low-effort and easy-to-change. Some days, I add more oats, and other days, I load up on fruit.  It’s critical to start your day off making the right choices, especially with the busy schedule of a STEM major!


Lindsay Miller (Mathematics / Actuarial Science)

Personally, I eat eggs almost every day.  They take minutes to prepare and can be customized to fit anyone’s taste. I mix up my egg recipes frequently…but my go-to is an Egg Sandwich.

Egg Sandwich

First, I turn the stove on medium and warm a frying pan. While I’m waiting, I put a whole wheat sandwich thin in the toaster and mash a medium avocado in a bowl with the juice of a 1/2 lemon. When the sandwich thin is toasted, I cover both pieces in hot sauce (you can never have too much hot sauce) and spread about a quarter of the avocado on one of the pieces.  Next I dice about a quarter of an onion and half of a red pepper and let them cook in the pan. When they begin to brown, I add about half a cup of liquid egg whites to the pan and let the mixture cook.  When the eggs are done, I add them to my sandwich and enjoy!

Nothing about this meal is precise, which lets me quickly approximate all of the ingredients. Substitutions can easily be made based on what I have on-hand or what I’m feeling that day.  For me, I usually alternate between using egg whites and two whole eggs cooked over medium heat, and I throw in mushrooms if I have them.  The key to sustaining a healthy diet is finding whole, fresh foods that you enjoy eating and can easily prepare no matter how busy the day.


Amelia Bielefeld (Biology)

Something my mom used to cook quite often while I was living at home was Roasted Chickpeas. It’s a relatively quick recipe and very easy to accomplish, even without any cooking experience at all.  I have been using the recipe quite frequently this year, since I do not have much time to spend preparing meals. It’s also really really simple!

Roasted Chickpeas

To begin, preheat your oven to 450 F.  I typically buy 2 cans of chickpeas at the store to make at once.  Next, you must drain the liquid from the cans and lay the chickpeas out on a baking sheet.  Spray the baking sheet with cooking spray or you can lay the chickpeas down on some parchment paper.  Blot the chickpeas with paper towels to get any excess liquid off.  You season them with some salt, pepper and garlic powder. Mix them around to evenly coat them. You can even add some cayenne pepper or siracha to spice them up!

When the oven is ready, place the chickpeas inside and bake them for about 40 minutes or until crispy.  And you’re done!

This recipe makes a lot of chickpeas in a short amount of time, so it makes a great snack for the week.  It’s the perfect recipe for someone always on the go, like a typical college student!!!