The accomplishments of undergraduate science majors were front and center at the Fordham University Science Consultation Dinner.
The event, hosted by Jack (FCRH ’72) and Jeanette Walton (TMC ’71, GSAS ’73) and held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, brought together faculty members, students and friends of Fordham with an interest in the physical sciences.
“We have been so successful in placing many of our students in top graduate programs in the sciences, partly due to the research collaborations between our faculty members and students,” said Mike Boyd, assistant vice president for school and constituent programs. “Tonight, we want to showcase a few of our students doing just that kind of work.”
Barrett Holen, a senior biology major in Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) and native of Thief River Falls, Minn., spoke glowingly of his undergraduate research experience. Holen and Sylvia Finnemann, Ph.D., associate professor of cellular biology, are working on treatments for age-related macular degeneration.
“When I got to Fordham, I knew nothing about the techniques, nothing about the science,” Holen said. “But with Dr. Finnemann’s guidance, I have come a long way. I’m to the point where I can show some of the new students the science and the techniques that we have been doing.”
Kimberly Siletti, a senior natural sciences major in Fordham College at Lincoln Center, told attendees that she came to Fordham to pursue theatre, but changed her mind after her first course in the natural sciences.
“I found it challenging to integrate and analyze information from disparate fields,” Siletti said. “Not only was it challenging, but it was rewarding. You can see the results of your work in the medical field or other fields.”
She has worked with Jason Morris, Ph.D., associate professor of biology, on experiments with the larvae of Drosophila.
“In doing this work, I learned many essential laboratory techniques, but even more importantly, I was able to learn what the life of a researcher is like,” she said.
Julianne Troiano, a senior chemistry major in FCRH and a Clare Boothe Luce Scholar, detailed her research with Jon Friedrich, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemistry. They are analyzing fragments from Almahata Sitta—a rare, carbon-rich meteorite that was deposited in northern Sudan in 2008.
“My research at Fordham has been a great experience,” Troiano said. I’ve visited national labs. I’ve learned analytical techniques. I’ve worked on my presentation skills at conferences. I’ve seen professors from other institutions speak.
“It has been such a pleasure, with the support of Fordham and especially the guidance from Dr. Friedrich,” she said at the Feb. 16 event.
Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham, noted that the Society of Jesus has a long and distinguished tradition in science and science education, most notably with Matteo Ricci, S.J., the Jesuit who brought cartography, geometry and trigonometry to China.
He noted that the cupola atop the Administration Building on the Rose Hill campus was built in 1846 because a Jesuit astronomer wanted a place to observe the stars. For many years, the seismology center at Fordham was the most widely consulted center of its kind.
“The time has come for us to retrieve our past by creating a future in which Jesuit contributions to science prepare our students to do what Ricci did, as well as the astronomers,” Father McShane said.
“To make it possible for our students to be part of a world that is guided by science, but founded on a strong sense of wonder and a strong sense of what’s right and wrong, leading to the enrichment of the human family.”