Spring 2015 Newsletter | Biology | Marquette University



In Memorium


Submitted by Dr. Brian Unsworth, Professor Emeritus and Department Chair 1998-2004

On Christmas Eve 2014, Sandra Priegel-Hughes died unexpectedly. She worked tirelessly and conscientiously, serving four departmental chairmen. “......May you continue to inspire us: To enter each day with a generous heart, to serve the call of courage and love until we see your beautiful face again in that land where there is no more separation, Where all tears will be wiped from our minds and where we will never lose you again.” Excerpted from On the Death of the Beloved by John O’Donohue.



Smith Lecture

Dr. Lily Young | Oliver H. SmithThe 28th annual Oliver Smith Memorial Lecture was held on April 10th. This year’s lecture discussed “Biodegradation of Oil, from the Exxon Valdez to the Deepwater Horizon”, and was presented by Dr. Lily Young, Distinguished Professor of Environmental Microbiology as well as Provost at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.


Dr. Young is internationally recognized for her scientific contributions to the role of anaerobic microorganisms that degrade a host of harmful organic chemicals like pesticides and petroleum components. The research in her laboratory targets novel anaerobes and the chemistry of the degradation pathways that they carry out. In 1994, her publication on degradation of toluene and m-xylene and transformation of o-xylene by denitrifying enrichment cultures was noted as one of the 10 most highly cited papers in the field of Ecology and Environmental Sciences. Her research has shown that petroleum hydrocarbon compounds including benzene, toluene, xylenes, naphthalene, phenanthrene, and hexadecane, are no longer considered recalcitrant under anaerobic conditions. They have proven that anaerobes have novel mechanisms to activating these molecules. For toluene the bssA gene codes for benzyl-succinate synthase Lily Young | Oliver H. Smithand they have shown that different anaerobes have analogues of bssA to degrade naphthalene and hexadecane. They have also demonstrated that some anaerobes have a different and unique mechanism for hexadecane degradation involving glycyl radical chemistry. These anaerobic mechanisms have been underexplored in anoxic habitats and for remediation of these contaminants. More recent research has also targeted the activity of environmental microbes on the reduction and oxidation (and cycling) of arsenic found in groundwater both locally and worldwide, processes that affect environmental toxicity.


Dr. Young has published over 100 scientific papers. She has been elected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She has received separate Research Excellence Awards from Cook College, New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station and the Board of Trustees of Rutgers University. Dr. Young has also received the Proctor & Gamble Award in Applied and Environmental Microbiology from the American Society for Microbiology. She has served on the editorial boards of the journals Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Microbial Ecology, and Biodegradation. Dr. Young has also served as Chair of Division Q, Environmental and General Applied Microbiology of the American Society of Microbiology.



STEM-MBA program

Marquette has unveiled a new BS/MBA program starting Fall 2015. This program allows students to earn an undergraduate degree in one of several STEM fields (Biological Sciences, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Physiological Sciences, Athletic Training Biomedical Sciences, Chemistry, Computer Science, Exercise Physiology, Math, or Physics), and an MBA in just five years. In the STEM-MBA program, students take business foundation courses as part of their undergraduate curriculum and then begin graduate-level coursework during their senior year.


Alumni Mentor Program


The Alumni Mentor Program is designed to match a Marquette Alumni with a current student in order to provide excellent networking, resume building, and shadowing opportunities, as well as to broaden students' understanding of life after Marquette.   The matchmaking process attempts to pair a student with an Alumni that had the same major (or at least was in the same college) as the student, or has a career that the student is interested in pursuing.  After some kickoff events, mentors and mentees will usually communicate through email, texts, phone calls, and sometimes even Skype to discuss times when they would like to meet, shadow, etc.  Throughout the year, mentors and mentees are invited to group events hosted by the Alumni Mentor Program.  Between these events, students have the opportunity to shadow their mentors or communicate with them to discuss their career path/goals/future direction (if the mentors live out of state and are unable to be shadowed).  


Alek Druck (Junior Physiological Sciences major) came into the program not knowing what to expect; he had been involved in other "job shadowing" programs in the past, but didn't know how much different the Alumni Mentor Program would be.  Looking back, he feels this program went above and beyond his expectations of a typical networking or shadowing program.  This is because the underlying connection between the Alumni and the student is Marquette, thus can see how each mentor embodies that idea of "men and women for others".  Mentors truly want to help undergraduates be successful, and through their kindness and desire to help, true friendships are made. Alek was able shadow his mentor, Dr. Robert Panther, multiple times throughout the year, giving him memorable experiences in the hospital setting. Alek was also invited to have dinner at Dr. Panther’s home, and they conversed over lunch and dinner in the city many times when he was in Milwaukee.  The combination of these experiences created a lasting bond between Alek and his mentor. Dr. Panther demonstrated the kindness and generosity that doctors can possess, and has become a role model for Alek of what a good doctor truly resembles.  Alek highly recommends current students to apply for this program, and hopes more and more Marquette Alumni continue to apply to be mentors so the program can expand.



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Biological Sciences Department

Marquette University, Wehr Life Sciences
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P.O. Box 1881
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(414) 288-7355