Science that serves the common good.
Each year, world-renowned faculty from the College of Science welcome students from around the globe. Eventually, these young men and women will transform from students into scientists, many of whom, upon graduation, will spread back out to the four corners of the globe. There, these alumni will take the knowledge they learned during their time at Notre Dame and, along with a Fighting Irish spirit and a belief in service to justice, will make the world a better place. Some alumni are already doing it.
- Dr. Ralph P. Pennino, ‘75, is among those organizing a major relief effort in Léogâne, site of the Notre Dame Haiti Program,
- Stephanie Morrison, ’07, founded Chicks in Science, an annual outreach event to educate and inspire grade- and middle-school-aged girls in Montana, and
- César Hidalgo, ’08, started Cambridge Nights: Conversations About a Life in Science, an online video series produced by M.I.T.
And it’s not just those outside of the University who benefit from the heart and hard work of the College’s alumni, as Notre Dame’s unparalleled alumni network is bringing their real-world experience to the College’s current students by providing them with valuable career advice as well as opportunities for research experience with alumni at universities, hospitals, and other laboratories.
This is what some of our alumni are doing with the knowledge they gained at Notre Dame:
Look at a person with a disability, and it’s often easy to see what makes them different from others.
Dr. David Coulter can see those things in the patients he has worked with for decades. But he also sees one thing that makes them, and all humans, the same—their spirits.
Coulter says recognizing that is a lesson he got from Notre Dame, where 50 years ago he explored what it meant to be human and to be himself. He learned it through reflection, many caring mentors and the opportunity to take classes in a wide variety of fields, sometimes auditing classes in which he wasn’t able to enroll.
“I was a kid. I was searching for answers. Notre Dame gave me the space and the freedom to help find those answers. I looked everywhere I could to find those answers,” he says. “Notre Dame was always a welcoming and open space in a way no other college could be.”
Following his passion for all things tied to nature, Coulter earned a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1969. But he could also be found bouncing questions off professors and priests when he sat in on philosophy and theology courses.
Sami Assaf never realized she would pursue a career in mathematics until she came to Notre Dame. She originally began her undergraduate career as a program of liberal studies major. Her sophomore year, she took Linear Algebra class and realized how much she loved mathematics, so she registered for all of the core sophomore honors mathematics classes the next semester. “After taking classes with Peter Cholak and Frank Connolly my sophomore year, I was so enthralled with the beauty of mathematics that I changed my major,” explained Assaf. She was admitted into the honors mathematics program her junior year.
In addition to her mathematics courses, Assaf was also a member of the Seminar for Undergraduate Mathematics Research (SUMR), a program for the most gifted mathematics students at Notre Dame who intend to do post-graduate work in the mathematics series. She graduated from Notre Dame in 2001 with a double major in honors mathematics and philosophy. She went on to earn her Ph.D. from the University of California Berkeley in 2007. Assaf is now the Gabilan Assistant Professor of Mathematics at the University of Southern California and her current research program is focused on developing the theory of dual equivalence graphs, which provide a combinatorial tool for establishing the symmetry and Schur positivity of a function expressed as a sum of quasisymmetric functions.
Paul Baranay '12
Paul Baranay earned his Bachelor of Science with a double major in biological sciences and applied and computational mathematics and statistics. During his time at Notre Dame, Baranay took advantage of many research opportunities. He worked with Steve Buechler, professor of applied and computational mathematics and statistics, on cancer gene network analysis, as well as Frank Collins, the George and Winifred Clark Chair in Biological Science, and Scott Emrich, assistant professor of computer science, on malaria research. Baranay also has worked with Michael Schatz, assistant professor, at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, to study genome assembly. In addition to his research projects, he served as Co-Editor-in-Chief for Scientia, Notre Dame’s undergraduate journal of scientific research.
Baranay is now attending Yale University and working towards a Ph.D. in Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, focusing on human disease using large-scale genomics data. This area of study incorporates a variety of different approaches and disciplines, such as data mining (computer science), network models (applied math), and cellular mechanisms (biology and biochemistry). Ultimately, he hopes to integrate computational data with experimental verification to better understand the genetic risk factors underlying disease.
Jeff Drocco '04
Jeff Drocco is a physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). His affiliation with LANL began early: as an undergraduate, he joined a collaboration between Notre Dame physics professor Boldizsar Janko and LANL scientists Cynthia Olson Reichhardt and Charles Reichhardt, working on computational studies of vortices and granular matter.
At Notre Dame, Drocco won a Goldwater Scholarship, the most prestigious award in the U.S. conferred upon undergraduates in the sciences. He then moved to Princeton for his Ph.D. work, where he also held a Department of Energy Computational Science Graduate Fellowship. A biological physicist, he completed his dissertation on pattern formation in development, working in the laboratories of his advisor David Tank and Nobel laureate Eric Wieschaus '69.
In 2011, Drocco returned to Los Alamos as a Director's Fellow in the Physics of Condensed Matter and Complex Systems Group. His most recent projects include modeling the dynamics of swarming microorganisms, as well as studying the effect of nanoparticle aggregation on toxicity to human tissue.
"Notre Dame planted the seeds of scientific curiosity in my mind and introduced me to the art of using the principles of physics to study diverse aspects of the natural world," Drocco says. "My experiences there inspired me to pursue a career in science after graduation."
Michael Kron '76
Michael Kron, M.D., M.Sc, F.A.C.P., graduated from Notre Dame in 1976 with a Bachelor of Science in Preprofessional Studies. He is currently a professor of medicine in the Infectious Disease division and a member of the Biotechnology and Bioengineering Center at the Medical College of Wisconsin. In March 2013, he was selected as one of 12 Jefferson Science Fellows by the National Academy of Sciences. As a Fellow, he will work with the U.S. Department of State to establish a new model for engaging the American science, technology, engineering, and medical academic communities in the formulation and implementation for U.S. foreign policy. He is only the third physician to be selected as a Fellow in the program’s entire history.
Dr. Kron is also the director of the Global Health Pathway at the Medical College of Wisconsin. His research focuses on the treatment of immunopathogenesis of neglected tropical diseases. He has ongoing collaborations with the medical community in the Philippines and has coordinated trips for medical students to practice medicine in the Philippine health system.
Charles Misner '53
Charles W. Misner entered Notre Dame with the Class of 1953, earned his Bachelor of Science in Physics in three years, and did four-fifths of his graduate coursework on campus the next year before going to Princeton for his Ph.D. His landmark book Gravitation, written with Ph.D. advisor John Wheeler and fellow student Kip Thorne, was first published 40 years ago, has never gone out of print. His work provided early foundations for the study of quantum gravity and numerical relativity. He wrote “The dynamics of general relativity,” a summary of papers on a formulation of general relativity, with Richard Arnowitt and Stanley Deser. That pivotal work on formalism, published in 1962, is cited in the field with their initials ADM.
Misner is professor emeritus of physics at the University of Maryland, where he started teaching in 1963. In 1993, a collection of papers in his honor, Directions in General Relativity, was published. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.
As an undergraduate student, Dayne Nelson, M.D., knew early on that a career in medicine would be a good fit for him. The preprofessional studies major loved science, especially biology and chemistry, and spent his free time volunteering at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center observing doctors, working in the ER, and preparing rooms for patients. After graduating from Notre Dame in 1997, Nelson attended the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Washington D.C. as part of the U.S. Army’s Health Professions Scholarship Program. Nelson chose the program because of the opportunities it would be provide him, which included full tuition to medical school, a salary and benefits, and access to top resident and internship programs after medical school.
Nelson is now urologist and an active duty major in the U.S. Army, stationed at Ft. Carson in Colorado Springs. In 2013, he was selected as one of three national winners of the Young Urologist of the Year award by the American Urological Association.
Fil Randazzo '85
Filippo (Fil) Randazzo, Ph.D. currently serves as deputy director of global heath discovery and translational sciences at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation where he is charged with managing a broad array of programs across multiple disease areas including malaria, TB and HIV.
Since 2005, Randazzo has participated in the foundation’s phenomenal growth, from mid-startup stage of about 100 employees into its maturation stage of over 1000 employees. As a founding member of the Discovery management team, he has overseen over $1.5B in cumulative investments across six continents, and has directly managed a portfolio of over $350M in grants and contracts in areas as diverse as vaccines, agriculture, family planning, mosquito control, nutrition and ethics, social and cultural (ESC) issues.
Randazzo received his postdoctoral training at Stanford University and the University of Toronto. He earned his Ph.D. from Indiana University in 1991 and a B.S. from the University of Notre Dame in 1985 where he majored in molecular microbiology and anthropology.
Andrew Serazin '03
Andrew Serazin is the senior program officer in the global health discovery division at the Gates Foundation, where he leads a team in developing new scientific approaches and technologies for maternal, neonatal, and child health. He founded and led Grand Challenges Explorations, an early-stage medical research fund that has attracted ideas from over 20,000 scientists in over 100 countries and has resulted in over 400 projects.
Serazin graduated from Notre Dame with a degree in biological sciences. After graduation, he attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar and received his doctorate for his work on developing new genomic technologies to accelerate design of new drugs and vaccines against malaria. He has been a member of the Science Advisory Council at Notre Dame since 2008.
Helga Schaffrin Huntley '99
Helga Schaffrin Huntley was an honors mathematics major and member of SUMR. Upon graduation she chose to spend two years helping Africa and taught in Zambia. She also set up a program to help young Zambian girls pay for their school books.
Schaffrin Huntley earned her Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics and Oceanography from NYU. She is now a research specialist at University of Delaware, interested in the mathematical modeling of ocean currents.
Carol Lally Shields, M.D. is a world-renowned ocular oncologist and the associate director of oncology service at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia. She is the author or co-author of five textbooks, over 700 articles in major journals, and more than 140 textbook chapters. Dr. Shields was the first woman to receive the Donders Medal (in 2004), presented by the Netherlands Ophthalmologic Society every five years to an ophthalmologist of world fame and outstanding merit. She received her medical degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1983.
Dr. Shields completed a degree in preprofessional studies while at Notre Dame. She was also a member of the first women's varsity basketball team and was the first female student-athlete to receive the Byron Kanaley Award for excellence in academics and leadership, the highest honor given to Notre Dame student-athletes. She has been a member of the Science Advisory Council at Notre Dame since 1989 and served as a member of the board of directors of the Monogram Club from 2005-2008.