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Gerald and Sally DeNardo Senior Prize in Science Research 2009

Established in 2007 to complement the Gerald and Sally DeNardo Lectureship, this prize is given by the Dean to recognize outstanding science research accomplishment by a graduating senior who reflects the distinctive characteristics of a Jesuit education and is pursuing a career in the health sciences.


 Michelle Pesci
The 2009 DeNardo Senior Prize is awarded to Michelle Pesce.  Born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Michelle is a first generation college student, and comes from a very loving family–her parents and grandparents are with us this evening.  Michelle chose to attend Santa Clara University after being offered a Presidential Scholarship.  A Biology major with a minor in Biotechnology, Michelle is in the University Honors Program and on the Dean’s list, putting her at the top 10% of her class.

For the last two years, Michelle has been an Undergraduate Research Assistant under the direction of Dr. Ángel L. Islas.  Her major project has dealt with the cloning, expression, purification, and biochemical characterization of E. coli DNA Polymerase, Pol II.  Her project relates to the overall lab’s focus of DNA polymerases and the repair of damaged DNA.  Beyond the lab, this past year Michelle has participated in the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics O’Connor Hospital Internship, where she examines the ethics of physician-patient care throughout hospital units such as Oncology, Surgery, ICU, and Family Medicine.  In this work she is honing her ability to focus not only on the scientific or medical concern but to concomitantly ask “the ethics question.”

Michelle has been described as “a remarkable student—among the most engaging, well-rounded, and inquisitive that I have taught . . . She is consistently open to learning—whether it is a new subject, a new fact, or a new approach to a problem. She is—and will continue to become—a scientist who is not only concerned with specific research results but also deeply committed to thinking about the implications of science innovation for real people with real health challenges.”

After graduation, Michelle plans to attend the Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Sciences in Claremont, CA.  KGI’s curriculum combines science, engineering, and business courses to prepare its graduates for careers in the life sciences industry.  Through Michelle’s hospital and laboratory experiences, and especially through case studies in her ethics classes, Michelle has become interested in clinical trials and drug development.  Ultimately, she seeks to help patients in healthcare by contributing to a scientific culture that is dedicated to producing medically-relevant technologies.  One day, Michelle hopes to impact patients in health care by acting as an advocate and key player in developing medical treatments that will improve patients’ lives.

Michelle Pesce embodies our goal of graduating students of competence, conscience, and compassion, and the DeNardo’s vision to recognize a student of great academic talent, a passion for scientific research related to human health, and the deep commitment to the Jesuit ideal to become an individual for others so valued by Santa Clara University and Sally and Gerry.
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