2015 Biology Graduate Rob Brzozowski advances to Postdoctoral Research in Host-Pathogen Interactions at Montana

Hi, my name is Rob Brzozowski, and I graduated from the University of Scranton in 2015 with a B.Sc. in biology.

Following graduation, I joined the graduate program at the University of South Florida (USF) as a M.Sc. student in the laboratory of Dr. Prahathees Eswara in the Department of Cell Biology, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology. My research focus was on understanding novel mechanisms underlying cell division in Gram-positive bacteria, namely Bacillus subtilis and the well-known pathogen Staphylococcus aureus. After my first semester in the M.Sc. program I realized that scientific research was what I wanted to do. I found it challenging and rewarding. During the spring of 2016 I applied to the Ph.D. program and was later bumped up from the M.Sc. program during the summer of 2016 to continue my work on bacterial cell division. During my time at USF I also took on numerous collaborative projects with other labs from the university and from around the country. Many of these projects focused on the characterization of novel antimicrobials, or on understanding alternative pathways in which old antimicrobials work. Collectively these projects resulted in multiple publications and the opportunity for me to present my work at conferences both in Florida, and around the nation. Set to finish my degree during the spring of 2020, I began the interview process for a postdoctoral position during the fall of 2019. I wanted to step out of my comfort zone, yet wanted to be able to use the skill set I have been building during the course of my Ph.D. I ultimately interviewed and accepted a position with the laboratory of Dr. Patrick Secor at the University of Montana where I will begin work in an entirely different field starting this summer. I successfully defended my dissertation during the spring of 2020.

My success at USF, as well as my ability to move forward in my chosen career, is, in part, due to the education that I have received from the University of Scranton. I chose Scranton over other institutions mainly due to the small class sizes and outstanding academic reputation. Taking the courses that interested me and building lasting connections to faculty members truly shaped my love for the life sciences, and ultimately resulted in my decision to continue on into graduate school. Beyond course work, Scranton also gave me the opportunity to take part in undergraduate research and I was able to serve as an undergraduate teaching assistant in general microbiology laboratory. These experiences not only reassured me that research in microbiology was my calling, but also gave me a competitive edge over other applicants applying to the same graduate programs as me. The biology department at the University of Scranton truly helped me build a foundation on which the rest of my education has been built upon. 

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The Biology Department Welcomes Four New Tenure-Track Faculty for Fall 2020

Culminating an intense, but highly successful search process carried out over the last nine months, the Biology department is excited to announce and welcome four new tenure-track faculty who will be joining us at the end of August, 2020. Together, these faculty bring a wealth of new expertise and energy to our department and to the Biological Sciences programs. They are poised and excited to carry on Scranton’s tradition of educating and inspiring our students, invoking Ignatian values of the magis and cura personalis. Please welcome these new members of our faculty, who are each introduced briefly below.

Dr. Ashley Driver
B.S., University of Wisconsin-Madison
Ph.D, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Dr. Driver’s research incorporates cellular, molecular, and developmental biology to understand mechanisms of early mammalian forebrain development. Her current work involves using human and mouse cell lines to investigate the impact cholesterol biosynthesis has on neural cell structure and function.

Dr. Driver will be teaching Cellular Biology (BIOL 350) and Developmental Biology (BIOL 351) lectures and laboratories in Academic Year (AY) 2020-21.

Dr. Vincent Farallo
B.S., John Carroll University
M.S., Texas State University, San Marcos
Ph.D., Ohio University

Dr. Farallo’s research focuses on the ecology and physiology of reptiles and amphibians, primarily Plethodontid salamanders, to help better understand how species will be impacted by changing environments. His current research is focused primarily on the thermal limits, metabolism, and water loss rates of these salamanders, which can be used to create species distribution models.


Dr. Farallo will be teaching Human Anatomy and Physiology (BIOL 110/111) lectures, General Physiology (BIOL 245L) laboratories, and Advanced Human Anatomy & Physiology (PSIO 221) lecture and laboratories in AY 2020-21.

Dr. Spencer Galen
B.S., University of Delaware
M.S., University of New Mexico
Ph.D., Richard Gilder Graduate School,
American Museum of Natural History

Dr. Galen investigates the evolution of host-symbiont interactions across spatial and temporal scales. His research largely encompasses studies on the diversification of symbionts and their hosts; molecular evolution of host-symbiont co-evolutionary interactions; and symbiont community ecology. His current projects examine the evolution of host specificity within the malaria parasites, and how this trait impacts the diversification and distribution of these parasites.

Dr. Galen will be teaching General Biology (BIOL 141) lecture, General Physiology (BIOL 245L) laboratories, and Science and the Human Environment (NSCI 201) lecture in AY 2020-21.

Dr. Amelia Randich
B.A., Grinnell College
Ph.D., University of Chicago

Dr. Randich’s work is focused on the molecular mechanisms underlying bacterial morphogenesis and the evolutionary trajectories that shape it. Her lab uses a mixture of phylogenetics, bioinformatics, cell biology, and biochemistry to study morphogenesis in diverse alphaproteobacterial species and to answer questions such as: Why do bacteria have certain shapes? What are the molecular underpinnings of specific morphologies? How do bacteria evolve new ones?

Dr. Randich will be teaching Microbiology (BIOL 250) lecture and laboratory in AY 2020-21.

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Biology Graduate Eva Rine reflects on Scranton and her new job at Sanofi

Hi, I’m Eva Rine, and I’m a senior biology major.

I started off as a pre-med BCMB major, but I soon realized that my passion was not in chemistry but biology. I changed my major to biology and my concentration to environmental studies, and have been focusing on the environmental aspects of the biology major. While I have been preparing for a job – ideally – in environmental consulting, COVID-19 brought with it the worry that I would not be able to get any job, let alone my most ideal job. That worry soon became reality as the country and the world shut down, and non-essential businesses came to a halt.

While I didn’t expect to start out my career with an essential job in a pharmaceutical corporation, I took a chance on a recruiter email sent to Dr. Sweeney from Sanofi. Within an hour I heard back from the recruiter, and within a few weeks I had filled out tax forms and been background checked and drug tested. Citing lab experience in the labs I’d taken at Scranton, as well as interpersonal experiences, I was offered a job in the formulations department just hours after being interviewed. The University of Scranton has provided me with an education and a confidence that not only prepared me to excel in the field I expected to be in, but also in the unexpected.

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Rising Biology Senior Jessica Fanelli awarded Royals Scholars Summer Fellowship in support of her Honors Research

Hi everyone!

      My name is Jessica Fanelli and I am a rising senior at the University of Scranton.

I am a biology major and a biochemistry minor. As a member of the Honors Program, I am conducting a senior research project that will conclude in the defense of a senior thesis. I am working with Dr. Robert Smith on this project to study species diversity and density of migratory bird populations in the Lackawanna State Park. For my senior research project, I have been awarded a University of Scranton Royal Scholars Summer Fellowship!  The fellowship provides me with a $3500 stipend, to allow me to spend the coming summer carrying out this project. 

      One of the primary goals in this study is to discern differences in species diversity and richness across varying habitat types. We will be using audio recorders to record bird calls in order to identify the species present in different areas. Recorders will be placed in a field habitat, a forest/field edge habitat, and within a forest habitat. With the recorders taking data in the spring and potentially during the summer breeding season, we will be able to study the effect of habitat on species richness and diversity. 

      Prescribed burns are going to be taking place in the coming years at the Park. Thus, these data can be used not only for my project, but also for future research when comparing the species diversity and richness before and after the burns have taken place. 

      I am so thankful for this award and my research opportunity here at Scranton. I would especially like to thank Dr. Smith  for all of his help, flexibility, and guidance. With this project, I will be able to expand my skills in data collection and analysis exponentially. Additionally, I would like to thank Dr. Voltzow for her guidance and her recommendation to pursue this award for my project. These faculty members are helping me to grow as a scientist and as a person, and I am so grateful for this and every opportunity I have here at Scranton. 

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Biology major Corinne Mackenzie tracks a Career as Physician Assistant

Hello, my name is Corinne Mackenzie and I am a current senior Biology major. I started my journey at the University of Scranton as a nursing major. It was not until my junior year that I decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree in biology. I would like to share with you how I came to this decision and what plans I have for the future.
Entering as a nursing major I was initially excited by my prerequisite classes. It was not until my sophomore year that I started to feel uncertain of my choice of nursing. Outside of the classroom my first two years, I pushed myself to get involved and break out of my comfort zone. I became involved in service and student leadership. These experiences were transformative for me and my confidence grew tenfold. As belief in myself increased, so too did the nagging thought in the back of my head that nursing just wasn’t quite right. I had a thirst for knowledge of the inner workings of disease and the human body that wasn’t being met in my current classes. I realized that I wanted to be a critical decision maker when it came to diagnosis and treatment plans for patients. This prompted a decision to move forward as a Biology major on a pre physician assistant track my junior year. The switch was intimidating with the ground I had to make up as a biology major. It would require an extra semester of coursework and necessitate that all my remaining semesters be heavily laden with science courses. Despite this, the semesters after switching my major have been my most successful. I have been able to take classes that I am passionate about and that will help me in my future career, such as Physiology, Immunology, and Endocrine and Reproduction. 

        While in the past I have lamented the fact that I did not come to this career decision before I started college, I now have come to appreciate the journey that led me to this decision. Starting off as a nursing major has made me a more well-rounded student and introduced me to a healthcare perspective I may not have had otherwise. I am grateful to have spent my time at this University because it has exposed me to core ideals that I know I will carry with me in my career. One of the most meaningful to me is Cura personalis, which translates to “care of the whole person”.  It is a reminder to view every individual uniquely and serve not only the body but the mind and soul as well. This is something I hope to live out as a Physician Assistant. Confronting the uncertainty of my major choice and vocation forced me to more deeply analyze my own interests and brought me to a decision in which I feel truly confident. Moving forward, I am preparing to apply to physician assistant programs. I am confident that the University of Scranton has honed my academic abilities and prepared me well. I would encourage other students not to be discouraged if at any point they find themselves uncertain of what path to follow. It is in these moments of uncertainty that I was able to deeply reflect on what I was most passionate about, and this led me to a career path I can pursue confidently!

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Positions available at Pharm Giant Sanofi

Sanofi, whose regional facility in Northeastern Pennsylvania (Swiftwater, PA) is part of the international pharmaceutical and vaccine giant Sanofi-Pasteur, has a number of professional positions now available to upcoming graduates in the Biological Sciences. I received the following email today, which I am sharing with you:

Hello Dr. Sweeney,

I am a recruiter with Manpower and I am reaching out as Sanofi has a few positions open in various departments that they are looking to fill. With the COVID-19 pandemic, Sanofi is now open to accepting students who would be projected graduate this year. We are looking for candidates who would be graduating with a degree [from programs such as] Biology, Biotechnology or Chemistry.

 I am hoping that you would pass my contact information out to any student that would be graduating this year. You can have them call me direct or just have them send a resume to me.

 I do hope that this might help some of your students and I look forward to hopefully partnering with you and the rest of the department for any future potential candidates that you feel would be a great fit with Sanofi.

 If you have any further questions, please feel free to reach out. Thank you and stay healthy!

 Kindest Regards,
Suzanne Jones
Recruiter – Sanofi
cell: 570-236-7556

You might also be interested to know that Sanofi has a number of professional development tracks available to undergraduates, which can be found here:


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Graduating Physiology major Ashley Martino – prepping for a PA Program

Hello my name is Ashley Martino and I am a senior Physiology major at the University of Scranton. You may be wondering what can you do with this major?  I had the same thought when this new major opened up at my university. I would like to share with you my journey, why I choose to be a Physiology major, and what I plan on doing with it.
Ever since I was a little girl I have loved helping people and knew that I wanted to make it into a career. There was this one moment where I knew what I wanted to do in life. This moment was when I was about 9 years old and I got to go to Bring Your Child to Work Day with my mom. My mom works in a hospital where she is a CT tech. They gave us a tour of parts of the hospital and we were able to see the helicopter that is used for air transportation for critical patients. After this day I knew I found my new home, and my interest in emergency medicine was sparked. My dream of becoming a doctor began and I started down the path of trying to get into medical school.

When I got to Scranton, I was a Biology major, and throughout my freshmen year I was working hard on my studies in order to get closer to my dream. I soon realized that I was buried in school work and not doing as well as I hoped or needed. I felt very overwhelmed and the realization that I might not be cut out for medical school started to creep in. My grades weren’t bad, but I was never a person to put all my focus into school work. I wanted to join clubs, do service, and be a leader in different aspects on campus, which took up time. I started to look into other professions in the medical field because I knew helping people was still my calling. I found the profession of physician assistant (PA) and I felt a fire light up inside of me. It was so appealing to me – you weren’t a doctor but you were basically their right hand man, woman in my case. What was the most appealing was the more patient interactions I would have as a PA compared to a doctor. I realized that this fire was excitement and I wanted to pursue this profession. I started to look into what it took to become a PA and how I can start down this new path. The first thing I had to do was change my major because although I could stay as a Biology major, this new Physiology major matched up better with the requirements for PA school. Ever since I did this, it has challenged my way of thinking and got me one step closer to my dream.

My post-graduation plan is to take a gap year in order to gain more patient care experience as an EMT and then apply for PA school. PA grad schools usually take a little over 2 years. These programs are also very competitive, and the more experience you have the better, and I am trying to get in the first time I apply. If I do not get in the first time around I will continue to work and gain hours and maybe even more science credits until I get into a program. I will do whatever it takes to make my dream come true. I aspire to the saying, if you love what you do in life you will never work a day in your life.

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Congratulations to our newest Scranton Summer Research Fellows!

The Provost’s Office has just announced this summer’s recipients of the University’s prestigious President’s Fellowships for Summer Research. The Biology department is proud to announce that six of our students majoring in the Biological Sciences have succeeded in securing these coveted awards for funded summer research experiences. Each fellow will receive a $3000 stipend, an additional $500 budget for supplies or travel to a scientific meeting, and the availability of free on-campus summer housing. The new Scranton fellows are:

  • Charles Dominick, Langhorne, PA (mentor: Dr. Jong-Hyun Son) – rising Senior in Biochemistry, Cell & Molecular Biology; Project: “The effects of a high-fat diet on acetylcholine esterase during the central nervous system (CNS) development”
  • Margaret McGrath, Merion Station, PA (mentor: Dr. Christopher Howey) – rising Junior in Biology; Project: “Studying the Effects of Ambient Light at Night (ALAN) on the Natural Rhythmicity of Glucocorticoids”
  • Mahad Muhammad, Freeland, PA (mentor: Dr. Maria Squire) – rising Junior in Biology; Project: “The Effects of Tylenol on Cortical and Trabecular Bone Quantity and Morphology in Adolescent Mole Mice”
  • Richard Terranova, New York, NY (mentor: Dr. Marc Seid) – rising Senior in Neuroscience; Project: “The Effects of social isolation on axonal pruning in the mushroom bodies of the ant “Pheidole dentata”
  • Cara Webster, Bradford, PA (mentor: Dr. Marc Seid) – rising Senior in Neuroscience; Project: “Army ant raiding as a learning tool for bat foraging behavior”, and
  • Sarah White, New York, NY (mentor: Dr. Anne Royer) – rising Junior in Biology; Project: “Testing maintenance of divergent “M.ringens” life histories with morphological differences, resource allocation, and inbreeding depression”

We plan to have each student blog this summer on their research experience, so please stop back to learn about their progress. In the meantime, please congratulate these budding researchers, and congratulate the many other students in the Biological Sciences who will be taking on research experiences this summer.

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Carly Richardson to graduate with Physiology degree and pursue Occupational Therapy

Hello! My name is Carly Richardson, and I am a senior Physiology major at the University of Scranton. As one of the first students to graduate from Scranton as a Physiology major, I thought I’d share my journey with you.

I always knew I wanted to be in a science field and help people. I first enrolled as an Exercise Science major and planned on going on to physical therapy school. I soon realized, however, that this was not the path meant for me. I still was not sure where to turn, so I changed my major to Biology because I thought it would allow me to have a few different options. Then, I quickly switched to the Physiology major during my sophomore year when I realized the classes offered fascinated me more. I knew I wanted to work with people rather than animals in general, so I headed down the track of a physician’s assistant. Again, I realized this still was not my path, but I continued with Physiology because of the interesting courses it allowed me to explore. It was not until the end of my junior year that I found my calling. After talking to faculty and peers, I knew I wanted to pursue occupational therapy. Though it was a long journey, it was one that I’ll never regret because it shaped me into who I am today. I learned that there is no rush to figure out your future, and what is meant for you will find its way.

Surprisingly, physiology and occupational therapy overlaps in ways I didn’t even think of. I did not think that I would graduate on time, but with the help of my professors and advisor, I was able to plan out the rest of my semesters to both fulfill my undergraduate major and take pre-requisites for grad school. The Physiology program has provided me with incredible scientific expertise, and with options to create my own path as well. I have taken Advanced Human Anatomy and Physiology, Pathophysiology, Biostatistics, Genetics and more! Learning about scientific research, how to conduct experiments and write reports has prepared me more than I could have imagined. I had the freedom to take Abnormal Psychology, Developmental Lifespan Psychology and Sociology courses, all of which apply to both fields. All my classes allowed me grasp knowledge not only important to physiology, but important to occupational therapy as well, making me a well-versed student.

My post-graduation plans are to take a gap year and then apply to an Occupational Therapy Doctorate Program. During my time off, I will work at a special needs school while getting more observation hours. My last four years at the University of Scranton have been eye-opening in allowing me to figure out my passion. I have created many meaningful relationships with friends that will last a lifetime. I’m so grateful to my professors, who were and will remain the most helpful and caring mentors. They want nothing but success for their students. Being a part of Relay for Life, Beading Hope, Art Club, and the Student Occupational Therapy Association provided me with experiences in the Scranton community that I am also very grateful for, as I shared my passion for helping others with people who had similar interests. I am forever thankful for my entire experience as a Physiology major in the place I learned to call home, and I feel beyond prepared to begin the next chapter of my life as I study occupational therapy.

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Eddie DiTolla, graduating Physiology Program senior on moving from Exercise Science to Physiology

Hi, I am Eddie DiTolla, a graduating senior from the University of Scranton. I am majoring in the excellent Physiology program that continues to develop and expand at the U.

  When I first arrived at the university, the Physiology program was not yet available to us, but was moving through the curricular approval process. I initially enrolled as an Exercise Science major and took sports physiology during my freshman year, which piqued my interest in physiology. I soon heard about the program and switched to Physiology as soon as the program was approved. I did this because it gave me many more career options. Like almost every process, there is a beginning, and, in the beginning, there are the guinea pigs to be used, and a need to narrow down the essentials that students need to know; I was okay with that. At times it was difficult, but as John Calipari has said, a successful person wins or learns, and boy I have learned a lot. The Physiology program led me to take a variety of courses that have expanded my knowledge of the physiological systems within our body. Courses I have taken include Genetics, Endocrinology and Reproduction, Pathophysiology, and Comparative Biomechanics. Pathophysiology is hands down one of my favorite courses. It gave students a real-life perspective on how to treat patients; it made students think outside the box, which can be difficult at times but also quite rewarding.

I feel that some of the teachers that I have had in the Physiology program are some of the most personable and genuinely lovely people I will ever meet in life. I could go to them and talk to them about anything and everything, which vastly helped in picking a career.  A personal experience of mine occurred one spring, when I tore ligaments in my ankle playing soccer. In the first class I attended after the injury, one of my teachers asked if I wanted him to go get me crutches, because I should not be walking on the injured ankle. It was one of the best things a teacher did for me at the U.

As for post-graduation plans, this April I will be applying throughout the country to PA schools, as well as to doctorate programs in Sports Kinesiology/Sports Management. I also will continue to gain more clinical experience. As a side note, if you go to the U, you should join the PA club and Ultimate Frisbee club. Overall, I love the U and believe that the Physiology program can lead to a fantastic future.

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