Department News

Dept. of Biological Sciences Welcomes New Faculty Member

The department is thrilled to welcome Dr. Laura Sipe to the faculty! An interdisciplinary cancer biologist, Dr. Sipe completed her doctorate at the University of Virginia. As a post-doctoral scholar at University of Tennessee Health Science Center, she investigated how metabolism and diet impact breast cancer progression and the ability of cancer to evade destruction by the immune system. Dr. Sipe will bring her expertise in cancer, immunology, and metabolism to UMW to research a novel pathway linked to breast cancer aggressiveness. Students in her laboratory will investigate oxidative stress, genetic instability, and immune evasion in breast cancer. She will teach Cell Biology (BIOL340), Biology of Cancer (BIOL440), and Immunology (BIOL441). “I am looking forward to engaging students in the classroom and in cancer research. My favorite part of science is translating that “What would happen if” or “I wonder” thoughts into well designed experiments”. Additionally, Dr. Sipe is excited to hit Fredericksburg’s many bike paths and explore the beautiful Rappahannock River by kayak.


Good News for 2022 Graduates

April is an exciting time for graduating seniors! From job offers to graduate school admission, post-UMW opportunities are shaping up. Biology major Katie Warlick is headed to the University of Rhode Island for a Master’s degree program in College Student Personnel. Her long-term goal is to earn a Ph.D. in neurobiology and become a college professor. “The professors in the Biology Department have been such a monumental and influential part of my undergraduate experience and are the reason I’m pursing an advanced degree. I want to make an impact on undergraduates the way this department has positively impacted me and my education,” said Warlick.

Here are some other next-step successes:

Abigail Lasky (Biomedical Science) has received a job offer from Epic, a healthcare software company that handles 54% of U.S. health data. She will work as a project manager.

Jane Sullivan (Biomedical Science) has received a job offer from Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren. She has been interning there since July 2021 and will begin her full-time position as a biologist this summer.

Trinity Chase (Biology) will begin a graduate program this fall in Biotechnology, with specialization in Biosecurity and Biodefense, at the University of Maryland. She will also begin a full-time work position in Pharmaceutical Product Development’s Contracts and Proposals Department.

Kayla Mann (Biomedical Science) has accepted offer of admission to University of Virginia’s M.S. in Athletic Training program.

Bennet Varghese (Biomedical Science) has accepted offer of admission to George Washington University’s School of Medicine where he will pursue his M.D.

Hannah Mendiola (Biology) will enter the National Institutes of Health’s post-baccalaureate Research Training Program in the Biospecimen Processing Core.



Biology Major Named Inaugural Virginia Conservation Fellow

Biology major Julia Gasink is rolling up her sleeves as UMW’s first Virginia Conservation Fellow. The Virginia Conservation Fellows program is designed to encourage students from underrepresented populations to establish careers with nonprofit conservation organizations. More than an internship, this program comes with a stipend and is designed to thoroughly immerse students in their sponsoring organization’s operations to jump-start their professional development. Julia, who is also pursuing University Honors and a GIS certificate, is currently working for the Northern Virginia Conservation Trust (NVCT).  She is applying her GIS skills to help meet NVCT’s needs, but is also participating in property site visits with staff, attending planning meetings, and working on her own research project. “They really make me feel like  part of the team. I am getting a great introduction to what it’s like to have a career with a conservation organization,” said Gasink. Virginia Conservation Fellows work with their partner organizations for a full academic year, and they can earn capstone academic credit for various majors, general education, and University Honors.  In addition to their science-based operations, conservation organizations have a wide variety of different needs, including marketing, fundraising, political advocacy, and communications. So, students from many different majors and backgrounds are encouraged to apply.

For the 2022-23 academic year, the Virginia Conservation Fellows program is aiming to place two successful applicants, one with NVCT and one with the Friends of the Rappahannock, located in Fredericksburg. The deadline for applications is February 15. If you have questions please contact either Professor Ranjit Singh, Dept. of Political Science or Professor Andrew Dolby, Dept. of Biological Sciences.


Biology Alum Publishes Paper in Major Scientific Journal

Miguel Marx, UMW Class of 2017, recently published his master’s degree research in the prestigious scientific journal PLOS ONE. The subject of his work is a new Cardiocorax mukulu specimen discovered in Angola. C. mukulu was a plesiosaur, which were reptiles that inhabited the oceans during the Cretaceous Era approximately 120-65 million years ago. This specimen was the oldest yet discovered in Sub-Saharan Africa, and Marx’s CT scan analysis of its near-complete skull yielded new insights on plesiosaur evolution. The paper’s discoveries were also covered by ScienceDaily in August. Miguel earned his bachelor of science degree from UMW with majors in biology and geology, then earned his master’s degree from the New University of Lisbon in Portugal (Universidade Nova de Lisboa). After defending his master’s thesis, he worked for a year as a researcher at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX. He is now a Ph.D. student in paleobiology at Lund University in Sweden. Congratulations, Miguel!


Biology Major Lauren Closs Named a Fulbright Scholar

Biology major Lauren Closs has been named a Fulbright Scholar, a truly high distinction! Upon completion of her UMW degree in May, she’ll be off to Norway to study the effects of the reproductive hormones LH and FSH on the reproductive behavior of fish. Closs is no stranger to Norway. As part of her participation in UMW’s Summer Science Institute, she spent seven weeks last summer studying the role of these hormones in mate guarding behavior and reproductive success of the medaka, a common laboratory model fish. Closs continued her project back on campus at UMW over the last academic year under the direction of Dr. Dianne Baker. For her Fulbright, she will rejoin collaborators in the Weltzien Lab at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences in Oslo to make further progress. Her work promises to advance knowledge about the physiology underpinning vertebrate reproduction and to facilitate success of economically important fish breeding programs. The prestigious Fulbright Scholar program was established to foster international academic and cultural exchange and cooperation. In addition to her Fulbright, Closs has presented her research at scientific conferences, such as the Society for Comparative and Integrative Biology Annual Meeting, and is a candidate for Honors in Biology. Congratulations, Lauren!