Science Celebration draws accomplished alumni

Science Celebration draws accomplished alumni

More than 20 successful science alumni representing six decades returned to campus to present their research and share their experiences during the 2019 Science Celebration last weekend. 

Highlighting the two-day celebration was a keynote address from Dr. Mark Peeples, ’74, a professor in the Department of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University and the principal investigator at the Center for Vaccine & Immunity at the Wexner Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

One of Heidelberg’s most accomplished science alumni, Mark spoke about “The Red Hot Search for an RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) Vaccine.” But first, he talked about the path leading to his career as a full working scientist that began in Frost Lecture Hall – the same space where he delivered his keynote – during a virology class being taught by Dr. Bob Murray in 1970. Now retired, Bob was in attendance for Mark’s talk on Saturday. 

Inspired by ’Berg science professors such as Dr. George Barlow, Dr. Percy Lilly and Dr. David Baker, Mark has graciously shared his expertise as a mentor to students and colleagues around the world and a leader in his research field. He has hosted Heidelberg students in his lab, providing a powerful learning experience for them, and has mentored others in internships and other research opportunities.

Today, there are only two groups of researchers working on RSV, Mark said. RSV is a common respiratory virus that typically causes cold-like symptoms that can be serious for infants and older adults. He has committed the last seven years to understanding RSV and working on making a vaccine.

Mark gave a history into RSV and efforts to create a vaccine that date back at least 65 years. The first came in the mid-’60s, but ended up making children sicker, so “the whole field chilled at that time.” A National Institutes of Health lab continued the work, and it was there, during a sabbatical 24 years ago, where Mark first became interested in RSV.

Currently, there are about 70 different types of RSV vaccines in various stages of clinical trials. The process is complex, requiring researchers to find ways to increase antibody production, increase vaccine production and decrease side effects in patients, Mark explained. His team of collaborators are applying novel molecular approaches to RSV with promising results.

“We still haven’t solved the problem but we’re getting closer,” he said.

Mark dedicated his keynote to his late classmate and dear friend, Janice Beyerle, ’74.

Alumni return for sharing

The Science Celebration presentations were a great mix of young alumni currently in grad school or just beginning their professional journey and alumni established in their careers or even retired. They presented their research during sessions on Saturday. Also featured was Heidelberg’s Chemistry Club as well as two current student presenters – Amanda Sugrue and Madison Flory. Dr. Karen Estridge also presented about the birth of the new Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program.

Here are the alumni who were presenters during the Science Celebration:

  • Allison Perry, ’17 (University of Cincinnati medical student)
  • Caleb Gerber, ’19 (current ’Berg MBA student)
  • Marilyn Berry DuFour, ’82 (Senior Environmental Specialist, City of Toledo)
  • Melissa Kerr, ’18 (Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital)
  • Kaylee Wilburn, ’17 (Bowling Green State University graduate student)
  • Rosemary Roof Teresi, ’02 (Field Medical Director for Pfizer)
  • Lauren Stainbrook Dyer, ’14 (Certified Anesthesiologist Assistant)
  • Geoff Clay, ’11 (Supervisor, Analytical Chemistry, Charles River Laboratories)
  • Michael Fallon, ’13 (Technical Trainer, Charles River Laboratories)
  • Danielle Howard, ’14 (Certified Physician Assistant, OSU Wexner Medical Center)
  • Patricia Speck, ’61 (Retired Veterinarian, Farmer)
  • Lillian Lupinacci Jordan, ’78 (Physician, Pittsburgh Healthcare System)
  • Sara Creque Thomas, ’99 (Unit Manager, Michigan DNR Fisheries Division)
  • Rufus Chaney, ’64 (Environmental Agronomist)
  • Rebecca Bean, ’17 (Certified Physician Assistant)
  • Danielle Blum, ’17 (Brown University Ph.D. student)
  • Beth Toot-Levy, ’01 (Geosyntec Project Scientist)
  • Kelly Berger Morse, ’08 (Cancer Genetics Program Coordinator and Licensed Counselor, ProMedica)
  • Claire Chandler Hoffman, ’16 (OSU Ph.D. student)
  • Kiera Malone, ’19 (University of Vermont Ph.D. student)
  • Shelby Kluck, ’17 (Ashland University nursing student
  • Lillian White, ’16 (Wright  State University medical student)
  • Jeffrey Gordon, ’13 (Ecologist/Malacologist, Lawhon & Associates)
Published in Alumni, The Sciences

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