Woods students benefit from top-notch research opportunities

April 29th, 2016 | SMWC

Sydney Wilderman
Jerry Weiss, Ph.D.; Sydney Wilderman, SMWC junior biology major from Poseyville, Ind., 2016 Gioannini Summer Undergraduate Research Fellow; Dottie King, Ph.D., SMWC president

“The small liberal arts atmosphere is really conducive to growth for science students,” said Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) Vice President for Academic Affairs Janet Clark. “Opportunities to work one-on-one with faculty who are experts in their field, small class sizes that ensure individual attention and a strong foundation in critical thinking and problem solving all contribute to the success of a science major at SMWC.”

Even at a liberal arts college, research opportunities are abundant, especially at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. For students chosen for the Gioannini Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, that research takes place at the Environmental Health Sciences Research Center at the University of Iowa for 10 weeks during the summer, where they perform research under Jerry Weiss, Ph.D., husband of the late Theresa L. Gioannini, Ph.D., for which the fellowship is named.

On Wednesday, April 20, at the Theresa L. Gioannini, Ph.D., Student Symposium, the 2016 recipient of the Gioannini Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, Sydney Wilderman, was awarded the fellowship and summer stipend for the 10 weeks she will spend at the University of Iowa.

“I feel so blessed,” said Wilderman, SMWC junior biology major from Poseyville, Ind. “When I was accepted at The Woods, I knew it was a special place but little did I know the opportunities that would present themselves over time. I am very fortunate and thankful!”

Wilderman hopes to use her creative knowledge to help others, specifically in the medical and biological fields. She plans to obtain a doctorate degree in medicine or research.

“Research is like a type of art,” stated Wilderman. “To do meaningful research, one must be creative, hardworking and passionate. Like an artist painting a masterpiece, researchers must use the information and tools that they have to support or refute a hypothesis. This is the type of art I want to be a part of – scientifically helpful form of art.”

Through the generosity and love for his wife, Jerry Weiss, Ph.D., established the Gioannini Endowment for Women in Science in 2015. It honors the life of his late wife, Theresa L. Gioannini, Ph.D., scientist, teacher and 1971 SMWC graduate. The first Gioannini Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship was awarded last year to Dulce Chavez, of Cicero, Ill., SMWC senior environmental science/chemistry major.

Chavez learned under two mentors in the Environmental Health Sciences Research Center at the University of Iowa – Jerry Weiss, Ph.D., and Peter Thorne, Ph.D. The project involved testing and further development of an improved method for detecting and identifying bioactive Gram-negative bacterial endotoxins in organic dusts. Chavez presented on their research at the symposium in Ariens Atrium of the Jeanne Knoerle Sports and Recreation Center on SMWC campus.

“It was a great honor to perform research at the University of Iowa,” said Chavez. “I was able to learn so much from real scientists. Jerry Weiss was an amazing mentor that pushed me to be a better scientist.”

The research and award presentation was followed by the Theresa L. Gioannini, Ph.D., Student Symposium in which SMWC students showcase their research. This year’s research posters ranged in topics from fluoride content in water to the effects of dehydration on athletes.

Theresa L. Gioannini, Ph.D., (1949-2014) graduated from SMWC in 1971 with a degree in chemistry, followed by graduate school at New York University where she earned a Ph.D. in chemistry. She died Jan. 4, 2014, after a valiant 2½-year battle with multiple myeloma. Gioannini was a moral compass of her family; a teacher and mentor extraordinaire; a friend with uncommonly selfless and generous qualities; and a scientist whose creativity and rigor made possible several seminal contributions concerning opiate and MD-2/TLR4 receptors.

For more information about the Gioannini Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, visit www.smwc.edu/GioanniniFellowship.

View Student Symposium Photos