Student Conducts Ground-Breaking Research at Stevens and Abroad
Amanda DiGuilio's resume—skilled chemical biology researcher, visiting scholar at an international laboratory, and co-author of a peer-reviewed science paper—is filled with the stuff of dreams for Ph.D. students in the sciences.
But when Amanda graduates from Stevens in May 2011, she won't be wearing the cap and gown of a Doctoral candidate. All her success conducting original research came to her as an undergrad.
The Brooklyn native spent some time at Borough of Manhattan Community College and enjoyed a semester at NYU, but knew that she wanted to transfer to a math and science school with real research opportunities. After an overnight visit and attending class lectures, Amanda made up her mind that Stevens was "the one."
Amanda recognizes that science has always had her number. She recalls being the most popular person in school when it came time to choose a science fair partner. Her friends had the right formula: Amanda took home first prize every year. While she was enrolled in a high school for the arts, she developed a plan to incorporate chemistry through a career restoring paintings and ancient objects.
This path did not prove to be enough. "I found that I was more interested in chemistry than I was in art," Amanda reports. "Now I can't think of anything else in the world I want to study."
While still in her first year at Stevens, Amanda approached Dr. Joseph Glavy about a job in his lab. Even though Amanda confesses she had more pluck than experience, Dr. Glavy put her to work. In the nurturing environment of the Glavy Lab, Amanda received the research experience she craved and knew was crucial to establishing herself as a scientist.
"I started off organizing supplies and cleaning beakers," Amanda recounts about her early days working in the lab. "And then a post-doc invited me to come watch an experiment she was doing. That put it into my head that I could ask to do something new in the lab." As the saying goes, it was on after that.
In the August 2010 issue of the scientific journal Cell cycle, Amanda's name appears as one of four co-authors that includes Dr. Glavy. The Glavy Lab isolates and studies molecular-level activity in isolated sections of the nuclear pore complex, a supramolecular assembly that directs traffic between a cell's nucleus and the cytoplasm within cell membrane walls. As described in the article, Dr. Glavy's research team uncovered a disease-related protein outside of its known range.
According to Amanda, an author credit is a pivotal point in a research-oriented career. "Whenever I go to conferences or apply to conduct research internationally, I am already acknowledged as a legitimate scientist," she says.
Amanda gives credit to Stevens innovative Scholars program for making powerful research opportunities available to her during the summer academic break. She spent her first summer working in the Glavy Lab, but when it came time to apply the next year, her advisor had bigger plans. Dr. Glavy suggested she apply for a research experience with Dr. Martin Beck at the European Molecular Biology Laboratories in Heidelberg, Germany.
"Dr. Glavy had a lot of confidence in me," Amanda says. "I had only worked in one lab at Stevens and was welcomed to spend a summer at one of Europe's top research institutions and work alongside doctoral students from around the world." The result—Amanda has been asked back to conduct further research with her collaborators in Heidelberg.
To balance her lab life, Amanda also takes advantage of social-oriented leadership opportunities at Stevens. Her favorite on-campus role—after research scientist, of course—is resident assistant at Castle Point Apartments. As an RA, it is her responsibility to turn a residence hall floor into a community. Although being an RA seems like the opposite environment of the lab, Amanda believes that she makes use of the same skills required in scientific research.
"Both require meticulous planning, organization, and communication," she says. "Everyone at Stevens is balancing research and personal lives and we all have to work together to make events happen."
Although she received her joint B.S. and M.S. degrees in Chemistry in May 2011, Amanda doesn't seem very eager to walk away from her current project, which involves stripping and methodically replacing proteins from an isolated portion of a cell to see how they re-form. In fact, she intends to continue her research studying the most basic building blocks of life.
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