Success Stories


Student/Faculty Research Into Bacteriophages Published

Kristen Butela, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology, and several of her students were among 199 faculty and 2,664 students listed as authors on a research paper published in April 2015 in the open-access science journal eLife. The paper “Whole genome comparison of a large collection of mycobacteriophages reveals a continuum of phage genetic diversity” describes a joint effort to compare the genomes of 627 bacteriophages isolated from a single species of bacteria. It found a continuum of genetic diversity, rather than discrete groups within the population. Phage isolation and analysis was performed by a consortium of academic institutions, illustrating the substantial benefits of a disseminated, structured program involving large numbers of freshman undergraduates in scientific discovery. At Seton Hill, the research team used iPads in the lab to keep track of data, while MacBooks made the genome analysis possible. Phages are important to researchers in part because it is believed that they might offer an alternative to antibiotics. Read the ScienceDaily article about this research.

Seton Hill Alumna at Forefront of Groundbreaking Cancer Research

Groundbreaking research into how temperature can influence the growth of tumors in laboratory mice conducted by Seton Hill Biology Program alumna Elizabeth A. Repasky, Ph.D., and her colleagues at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Repasky’s research addresses the standard cool temperature at which laboratory mice are housed in most research facilities, and how that might skew the results of cancer immunology studies. Read more here.

Biology Major Marietta Rossi Spotts Receives 2015 Distinguished Alumni Leadership Award

Marietta Rossi Spotts (SHU ’55) spent her career helping others reach their educational goals. Read more about Marietta and all of the 2015 Distinguished Alumni Leadership Award recipients.

Biology Program Graduate Influential in HIV/AIDS Research & Care In U.S. & Mozambique

Deborah Dzombak McMahon, who graduated from Seton Hill in 1977 with a degree in biology, is an associate professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Pittsburgh's School of Medicine. She serves as the clinical director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's HIV/AIDS Program and has a secondary appointment in the Department of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology in the Graduate School of Public Health. She oversees the activities of the AIDS Clinical Trials Unit, which conducts NIH-funded and industry-sponsored clinical trials as well as the HIV primary care unit. Dr. McMahon is the director of the University of Pittsburgh’s HRSA-funded HIV Early Intervention Project, which provides testing and counseling services as well as enhanced primary medical care services to more than 1,450 HIV-infected men and women in western Pennsylvania. In addition, she serves as project director for a President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)-supported Twinning Partnership with the Catholic University of Mozambique to train Mozambican healthcare workers and medical students. Dr. McMahon earned her Doctor of Medicine degree from Temple University in 1981.

Teacher & Nonprofit Volunteer Receives Distinguished Alumni Leadership Award in June 2014

Joan Truax Avioli (SHU ’54) has been a wife, mother, teacher, mentor, writer and nonprofit volunteer since graduating from Seton Hill with degrees in biology and chemistry. In 1969, she received her master’s degree in teaching and began educating junior high school students. Years later, she was invited to be part of the English department at McCluer North Senior High School in St. Louis County, Mo. – the first court-ordered desegregated school in the state. After Joan’s husband, Dr. Louis V. Avioli, died in 1999, she moved to their home on Kiawah Island and began her work as a nonprofit volunteer. She quickly advanced to vice chair and then chairperson for the Kiawah Island Conservancy. Joan also became involved with the Our Lady of Mercy Community Outreach, which has ties to the Sisters of Charity. She is currently completing her second board term with the organization. Joan has also served on the board of the Kiawah Island Community Association.

Click here to learn more about the Distingished Alumni Leadership Award.