Marisa Egan '18
Chemistry, Mathematics, Philosophy
Biology Student Researcher
Saint Joseph's University, Biology Department
Briefly describe your role.
"During my time at SJU, I have worked in Dr. Shantanu Bhatt's lab as a Microbiology Student Researcher. I started working in his lab my freshman year. Quickly, the lab became my favorite classroom on campus. I had several teachers in that classroom, including students, each of whom welcomed my curiosity. My questions prompted discussions about complex experimental design and nuanced deductive reasoning. Moreover, I admired the overall purpose of our research. We were working on uncovering the fundamental genetic mechanisms that enabled pathogenic bacteria, such as enteropathogenic Escherichia coli and Escherichia albertii, to cause disease. In lab, I realized that our work could amount to one small yet significant step along the journey towards finding efficacious interventional strategies against these pathogens. This realization ignited my passion for purposeful empirical discovery. As I have developed my experimental techniques and explored the scientific method in his lab, I believe that I have grown as a student, a researcher, and a thinker. Our work in lab has yielded productive outcomes, as we were the first lab to mutagenize the genome of the novel, enteric pathogen, Escherichia albertii. These findings have culminated in the publication of several paper in peer-reviewed journals. I have had the privilege of being the first author on one of these peer-reviewed journals. Moreover, this past year, I earned the Barry M. Goldwater Fellowship. This is a prestigious scholarship, given annually to sophomores and juniors who intend to pursue careers in the natural sciences, mathematics and engineering, covers the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year. In the past years, because of our work in Dr. Bhatt's lab, I have received the Thermo Fisher Scientific Antibody Scholarship, American Society of Microbiology Undergraduate Research Fellowship, Sigma Xi Grant, and Sigma Zeta Grant."
How did you get connected to this opportunity?
"Sitting in my general biology course freshman year, I grew fascinated by the scientific method. My professor, Dr. Bhatt, exuded an infectious passion and curiosity for the empirical process of discovery. He encouraged us to be rational skeptics. An insatiable desire to ask why and how awoke within me. Following the advice of members from the John P. McNulty Scholar's Program, I asked Dr. Bhatt my myriad of questions during his office hours. At the end of September, only several weeks into the fall semester, Dr. Bhatt asked me to volunteer in his research lab. I eagerly accepted his offer, which is how I got connected in my current position."
How has your SJU education impact your professional goals?
"My lifelong career goal has been to become a professional problem-solver in the cause of helping humanity. To me, the ability to solve problems is the single most important skill for achieving success in scientific research and, more broadly, in life. Ever since my freshman year of college in Dr. Bhatt's lab, I have been cultivating my problem-solving capabilities through research experience and additional academic opportunities, which have led me to solidify my specific career goals. I now know that I wish to be a professional problem-solver in the classroom and in the lab as a professor and scientific researcher. By following this career path, I hope to help humanity through innovation, in the form of research, and inspiration, in the form of teaching. In terms of research, problem-solving to understand the virulence of pathogens is a level of success that I aspire to attain. Through my undergraduate research experience over the past four years, I realize that such success is possible. In order to pursue my dream of becoming a professional problem-solver in the lab and in the classroom, I hope to enter into a Biomedical Sciences interdisciplinary PhD program. I am interested in pursuing microbiology research, specifically in the areas of bacterial pathogenesis and microbial genetics. At SJU, my training in research has taught me how to question the material I learn and teach as well as how to teach the journey of experimentation to my students. Additionally, at SJU, my training in student teaching, by being a Teaching Assistant (TA) in labs and Supplemental Instruction (SI) Leader in General Biology courses, has assisted me in effectively communicating complex ideas formulated in the lab to the scientific community. My time as a researcher and a teacher has shown me another way forward. Research and teaching enable me to help others. In order to form a career “product” from these two intermediate interests, I plan to pursue a career in research, one that will allow me to help the world in one small yet significant way. "
Did you participate in any experiential learning activities while at SJU?
"During my time at SJU, I have participated in three summers of the Summer Scholars Program. It was during those summers that I made large leaps in my research in Dr. Bhatt's lab. I have also participated in the Supplemental Instruction (SI) Program, as Dr. Bhatt's SI leader for Cells and Genetics and, now, the SI Mentor for General Biology courses. I believe that SI represents experiential learning, as I learned how to be a student teacher through the inspiring program."