Marisa Egan '18
Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Biology
The Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania
Biology Major Marisa Egan '18 will attend the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania to pursue a Ph.D. in cellular and molecular biology.
As a McNulty Scholar and biology major, she hopes to one day combine a love for teaching and biomedical research as a university professor. Marisa, of King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, recently added a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship to several other prestigious awards she received over the past four years, including the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, the American Society of Microbiology award, a national Sigma Xi Scholarship, the Goldwater Scholarship and was a finalist for the Hertz Scholarship.
Egan has worked as a research assistant with Shantanu Bhatt, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology.
Their project involved groundbreaking research, performing a progressive study of the drug-resistant bacterium Escherichia albertii, which targets infants in underdeveloped countries causing diarrheal disease. Bhatt’s team has published several papers on E. albertii, with Marisa credited as lead author on one and co-author on another.
"Quickly, the lab became my favorite classroom on campus."
"As a microbiology student researcher, I had several teachers in the lab — including students — who welcomed my curiosity," she says. "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."
The goal: become a professional problem-solver.
"To me, the ability to solve problems is the single most important skill for achieving success in scientific research and, more broadly, in life," she says. "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."
Experiential learning was the key.
Marisa participated in three summers with the Summer Scholars Program, where undergraduates engage in faculty-mentored research for the summer months, during which time she made "the largest leaps in her lab work," she says. Egan also served as a Supplemental Instructor (SI) and a Teaching Assistant (TA) to get on-the-ground teaching experience in the science field.