Spotlight on Natural Sciences Alumni: Jenna Anderson

andersonName: Jenna Anderson

UR Major:  Biology (Microbiology and Immunology)

Other UR Majors/Minors: Minors in Mathematics, Brain and Cognitive Sciences

Additional Education: Masters degree in Biology (Infection Biology and Immunology) from Uppsala University, Sweden

Current City, State of Residence: Uppsala, Sweden

Job Title: PhD student in Vaccine Development (with focuses on Virology and Clinical Animal Science)

Employer: Sveriges Lantbruksuniversitet (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences) in Uppsala, Sweden

Family: Parents and sister in CT, USA and twin brother in CA, USA. Plus lots of friends (Swedish, American, Danish, German, Lithuanian, etc) in Uppsala!

Community Activities: Active member of Uppsalas Akademiska Roddarsällskap (Uppsala’s Academic Rowing Club); senior member of Västgöta Nation (similar to a fraternity in the US); member of the American Women’s Club in Stockholm, Sweden


What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

I was involved in HSA, City Cycles, and many other groups to varying degrees. I was also a resident/community advisor, a tutor, and teaching /lab/workshop/office assistants. These activities introduced me to a variety of students, faculty, and non-faculty members with different skills, interests, and perspectives and I think the greatest gift I gained was a tremendous respect for people.

Who were your mentors while you were on campus? Have you continued those relationships?

I found many of my professors and other faculty members inspiring role models as a student, but I consider certain teaching assistants as well as older friends to be my mentors. I have some contact over Facebook with those TAs and contact via Skype, fb, and visits with those older and wiser friends.

What did you wish you had known before graduating? What would you have done differently?

If I had known I would probably work in academia, I would have spent more time attending seminars and reading scientific articles. That said, I’m glad that I didn’t know! Not knowing the future, I was able to spend the present broadening my knowledge in many of the subjects that interested me, and I think that helps me today.

What is your opinion regarding graduate school vs. working right after graduation?

I have heard that it’s mentally and logistically easier to go to graduate school right have after graduation, but I think that you should do whatever feels right at the time, of course coupled with a sense of what you want your future to be like. You don’t HAVE to get a PhD just because all of your friends are, especially if you don’t want to stay in academia, but you might need that Masters degree to work as a researcher in a company, or maybe you just want to switch things up? Everything’s possible, so do what makes the most sense for you at this time in your life.

What early career advice can you give to current UR students studying biology?

Read scientific articles! Make friends in different fields; a cross-disciplinary perspective can improve your approach to

certain problems and deepen your understanding or curiosity. If you do a PhD, consider the people more than the subject; you will likely spend the next 4 years with them so make sure you can thrive together!

What do you do now and why did you choose this career? Where would you like to be in five years?

I chose to be a PhD student because I like the challenges and diversity of academia. In five years, I would like to be a researcher on the long road to professorship, working with insects as vectors of disease, and have greatly expanded my knowledge of proteins and insects alike. I love living in Sweden and I think that I will continue to live abroad, but hope to continue to expand my international collaborations to include the US.

Spotlight on Natural Sciences Alumni: Dave Messenheimer

Name: Dave Messenheimer ’03

Education (UR and additional): BS (Microbiology/Immunology), University of Rochester, 2003; PhD in Progress from Oregon Health & Science Univ.

Current city/state of residence: Portland, OR

Job Title: Graduate Student/Cancer Researcher

Employer: Oregon Health & Science University

Community activities: Volunteer: Friends of Trees, Big Brothers Big Sisters NW, Community Tool Library, Foster Parents Night Out, Neighborhood Association Board Member


Why did you choose to attend the University of Rochester?

I chose to attend the University of Rochester because of its balance of great academics and accomplished athletics. It was one of only a handful of smaller schools that had a microbiology major, and had an accomplished research program and medical center. My parents also forced me to only look at schools within five hours drive from my hometown (near Cleveland, OH). I liked the look of the school, classy but not pretentious, and the UR’s national ranking is always near the top. I also got a reasonable aid/scholarship package, making the school affordable for me.

When and how did you choose your major?

I picked the University of Rochester because of its microbiology program. I knew I wanted to major in microbiology a year or so into high school, as I excelled at science and was fascinated with the book The Hot Zone. In many respects it was easier to start college with a defined major. With all the class requirements of the microbiology program, I don’t know if it would be possible to finish in four years if you didn’t decide until your second year. I enjoy learning and have many interests, so I think I would have been happy with any number of other majors, like political science or even music.

What activities were you involved in as a student and what did you gain from them?

I ran varsity cross country and track throughout college, and was involved in various athlete advisory committees. I was also active in the Protestant Chapel Community, and hosted a show on WRUR radio for 2.5 years.  Frankly, I wish I had had more time at UR to explore other clubs, there are so many opportunities in university that you will probably never have again in your life, and I wish I had been able to branch out a little more.

What did you do immediately after graduation? How did you decide to take that path?

Upon graduation I started a six year career as a professional athlete. I had done triathlon for eight years previously and knew that if I were to ever race at the top echelon I had to give it a try when I was younger, instead of going to graduate school first.  My goal was to make the Olympic trials, and I came very close, just missing out in 2008. Along the way, I got to live at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado, and race on every continent (minus Antarctica). It was a very unorthodox path, especially when compared to the other students I graduated with in my department, but I don’t regret it, as I hoped graduate school and a career in science would always be available to me.

What do you do now and why did you choose this career?

Currently I am a graduate student in microbiology/immunology at Oregon Health & Science University. I work in a tumor immunology lab at the Earle A. Chiles Research Institute for cancer research at Providence Portland hospital. My main projects focus around the use of tumors as vaccines, and the ability of antibodies to manipulate the immune system to fight cancerous tumors.  Throughout my athletic career my plan was always to return to science and graduate school, when I was finished racing. I love research science, as it basically allows you to be a student for the rest of your life, only the things you are learning are usually things that no one else on earth has discovered yet. 

How do you balance your work and personal life?

With a background in a sport that requires you to train in three different disciplines (swimming, cycling, and running), balance has always been an absolute necessity in my life. I’ve always had a lot of interests and hobbies, and finding time for it all can be a challenge, especially with the time and emotional demands required in graduate school. Making priorities is important, but always finding time for exercise and relaxation is also just as important. You always have to remember that if you’re miserable and exhausted you’re not going to be doing your best work.  It’s better to do shorter periods of high quality work, so learning to be efficient and focused has allowed me to live a nicely balanced life of school/work, family, and hobbies.

What advice do you have for current students?

Don’t sweat your GPA too much, good test scores (GRE, MCAT, etc.), recommendations, and experience can help you get ahead more than your GPA.  Learn concepts and don’t just memorize facts. Get involved in all the activities you can, this will probably be the only chance you have in life to join some random clubs, so don’t waste it just hanging out in the dorms all the time. Don’t be afraid to make a crazy career move in your 20’s. The way today’s employment market is, it is unlikely you’re going to be a “lifer” at one specific company. So take the opportunity early in your career to travel or take a job that is outside of your skill set/comfort zone. As you get older these windows of opportunity become smaller and smaller, so enjoy them while they are available.


Nine Rochester Students Awarded Fellowships for Graduate Research

Univ. Communications – Nine University of Rochester students and six alumni have been named recipients of the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships. Additionally, 18 current students and recent alumni also were given honorable mentions by the NSF. The fellowship, which is part of a federally sponsored program, provides up to three years of graduate study support for students pursing doctoral or research-based master’s degrees. Since the program’s inception in 1952, it has supported nearly 50,000 students conducting research in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and selected social science disciplines. Of the more than 12,000 applicants, only 2,000 were awarded fellowships and 1,783 were given honorable mentions. The fellowship includes a three-year annual stipend of $30,000, a $10,500 educational allowance to the institution, and international research and professional development opportunities.

The following graduating seniors received fellowships:

  • Emilia Sola-Gracia ’12, bachelor of science in ecology and evolutionary biology
  • David Kaphan ’12, bachelor of science in chemistry
  • Sharese King ’12, bachelor of arts in linguistics, minor in American Sign Language
  • Mark D. Levin ’12, bachelor of science in chemistry, minor in mathematics
  • Susan Pratt ’12, bachelor of arts in mathematics and bachelor of science in physics

The following graduating seniors received honorable mentions:

  • Chad Hunter ’12, bachelor of science in chemical engineering, minor in mathematics
  • Matej Penciak ’12, bachelor of science in physics and bachelor of arts in mathematics
  • Benjamin E.R. Snyder ’12, bachelor of science in chemistry and bachelor of arts in mathematics

The following graduate students received fellowships:

  • Michael Baranello, doctoral degree candidate in chemical engineering
  • Ellie Carrell, doctoral degree candidate in pharmacology and physiology
  • Jason Inzana, doctoral degree candidate in biomedical engineering
  • Vijay Jain, doctoral degree candidate in physics

The following graduate students received honorable mentions:

  • Esteban Buz, doctoral degree candidate in brain and cognitive sciences
  • Dev Crasta, doctoral degree candidate in clinical and social sciences in psychology
  • Adam B. Johnson, doctoral degree candidate in ecology and evolutionary biology
  • Patrick S. Murphy, doctoral degree candidate in microbiology & immunology
  • Ian Perera, doctoral degree candidate in computer science

The following recent alumni, who are currently pursing advanced degrees elsewhere, received fellowships:

  • Molly Boutin ’11, bachelor of science in biomedical engineering
  • Caitlin Hilliard ’10, bachelor of arts in brain and cognitive sciences and American Sign Language
  • Patrick Sheehan ’11, bachelor of science in physics & astronomy and bachelor of arts in mathematics
  • Raisa Trubko ’10, bachelor of arts in physics and bachelor of science in optics
  • David J. Weinberg ’11, bachelor of science in chemistry
  • Hannah (Geswein) Williamson ’08, bachelor of arts in psychology

The following recent alumni, many of whom are currently pursing advanced degrees elsewhere, received honorable mentions:

  • Samuel Anderson ’11, bachelor of science in chemistry
  • Isthier Chaudhury ’11, bachelor of science in chemical engineering and bachelor of arts in interdepartmental programs
  • Emily (Grzybowski) Dennis ’11, bachelor of science in molecular genetics and bachelor of arts in studio arts
  • Aaron Gorenstein ’11, bachelor of science in computer science
  • Seth Kallman ’09, bachelor of science in brain & cognitive sciences
  • Kathleen Mulvaney ’10, bachelor of science in molecular genetics
  • Alison Ossip-Klein ’10, bachelor of science in ecology and evolutionary biology
  • Camillia Redding ’10, bachelor of arts in political science
  • Maria Strangas ’10, bachelor of science in ecology & evolutionary biology
  • Adam Williamson’08, bachelor of science in electrical & computer engineering and bachelor of arts in physics

Article written by Melissa Greco Lopes, editor of The Buzz and student life publicist in University Communications. Photo courtesy of  the NSF website.

Yaneve Fonge Earns Academic All-America Honors

Rochester Athletics – It was a record-breaking season for University of Rochester weight thrower Yaneve Fonge. It’s been a highly successful academic year as well, and her latest honor verifies that.

Fonge has been named to the Capital One Academic All-America Women’s Track & Field/Cross Country Second Team in the College Division. Selections are made by members of the College Sports Information Directors of America. She is a native of Cheshire, CT and an alumnus of Choate Rosemary Hall School.

She is the third Rochester student to earn Academic All-America honors this year. Mike Labanowski of the men’s basketball team was honored in the winter. Frank Ferraro of the men’s swimming and diving team was named to the Men’s At-Large team in the spring.

Since 1976, a total of 79 Rochester student-athletes have received Academic All-America honors from CoSIDA. The University was tied for 10th place among Division III institutions with 76 Academic All-Americans entering the 2010-11 year. Fonge is the third women’s track and field/cross country athlete to be honored since CoSIDA created a separate team in 2003.

Fonge was the NCAA Division III national runnerup in the 20-lb. weight throw at the indoor NCAA championships in March. Her throw was the fourth longest in Division III history. She competed at the 2011 outdoor championships as well, finishing 16th in the hammer throw. Over the course of her career, she was a seven-time NCAA qualifier in the weight throw, the hammer throw, and the shot put.

She was the 2011 New York State Collegiate Track Conference indoor champion in both the shot put and the weight throw. She was selected as the New York State Field Event Performer of the year. She was the ECAC indoor champion in the weight throw and the ECAC outdoor champion in the hammer throw. She holds two school records.

Away from the field of competition, Fonge was named to the Dean’s List in every semester. She was a finalist for a Rhodes Scholarship and selected as a three-time Scholar All-American by the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. She was a member of Golden Key. As a sophomore, she earned the Iota Book Award from the University’s chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the internationally renowned honor society. Fonge served as a teaching assistant in mathematics and chemistry. She was presented with the University’s Presidential Award for Community Service in 2011. Fonge was graduated from the University on May 15 with dual degrees in Microbiology and Immunology. She minored in Clinical Psychology.