Student Testimonials

Justin, current Biology graduate student

Justin Bernstein

I have studied in the M.S. program under the academic advisement of Dr. Aaron Bauer. I graduated from the State University of New York: College of Environmental Science and Forestry in 2012, where I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Biology. I have 13 years of experience in day and emergency veterinary clinics, as well as two years of human phlebotomy work in hospitals. Aside from the veterinary field, my interests lie in systematics and phylogenetics of reptiles and amphibians, particularly research on phylogeography and conservation genetics.  Here at Villanova University my research involves DNA barcoding of lizards on the island of New Caledonia located in the southwest Pacific Ocean. I am sequencing the cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (CO1) gene to test its phylogenetic informativeness and provide empirical evidence that DNA barcoding may act as an efficient species delimitation tool for these animals. The graduate program here at Villanova has provided a plethora of useful tools and resources to conduct research and get more involved in the scientific community, allowing me to make a network of professional connections.

Ashveens Bains, current graduate Biology student.

Ashveen Bains

I started as an undergraduate student at Villanova and decided to continue with my master’s degree here.I’ve taken higher level science courses which have allowed me integrate some of these advanced concepts with my graduate thesis.  In addition to that, I’ve had the opportunity to TA undergrads. Being on the other side of it all has really helped me gain a greater sense of self-awareness. Simultaneously, these experiences have kept me grounded and motivated for my ultimate goal of pursuing medicine. One of the best parts about being at Villanova is that the professors are always willing to help whether with research, academics, or any other kind of concern. Overall, my experience here has been amazing and I would highly recommend it to anyone that loves to learn!

Dan McHugh, Biology Graduate student

Daniel McHugh

I am a graduate of Villanova University’s Master of Sciences program. I came to Villanova a year following receiving my B.S. in Biology from Lycoming College in Williamsport, PA. I worked in the lab of Dr. Matthew Youngman, studying the relationship between the FOXO transcription factor DAF-16 and SMK-1, a nuclear protein, in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans.  During the course of my research, I frequently used molecular biology research techniques such as Polymerase Chain Reaction, Western Blotting, and RNA Interference.  In addition to my research experience, I was able to support myself as a teaching assistant, where I taught the lab portion of Human Anatomy and Physiology.  Through my time at Villanova, I discovered that I enjoyed both research and teaching.  Currently, I am pursuing a PhD in the Biomedical Scientist Training Program at Case Western Reserve University, which would not have been possible without my experiences at Villanova.

Rachel Krantz, current Biology graduate student

Rachel Krantz

I have been a master's student in the Biology Department. I obtained my Bachelor's at Juniata College in 2014, with a major in Biology and a double minor in Spanish and Psychology. During my first year at Villanova, I worked as a Teaching Assistant for Human Anatomy & Physiology, began my thesis work in muscle physiology under the mentorship of Dr. John Olson, and was elected the Vice President of Social Activities for the Graduate Student Council.  During my time at Villanova, I have grown tremendously, both personally and professionally. I have no doubt that Villanova has given me the confidence and skills to succeed in my chosen profession. After Villanova, I plan to pursue a career in healthcare, and ultimately specialize in Geriatrics. In my spare time, I enjoy playing soccer, writing and performing poetry, traveling as much as possible, hiking in the mountains, and volunteering at Sunrise Senior Living in Haverford, Pennsylvania!

Alex, BSMS

Alexander Kuczmarski

I graduated from the BS/MS Program in Biology in 2015 under the mentorship of Dr. Dennis Wykoff. My graduate thesis looked at the evolution of signal transduction pathways in yeast. I have fond memories of my time in the Wykoff laboratory. My experiences at Villanova resulted in a publication and a set of marketable professional skills, and I formed close relationships with my mentor and with my colleagues. I cannot imagine a better setting for graduate research. My mentor and the rest of the Biology department took a serious interest in my education and in my thesis. I received a great deal of personal attention and I was a member of a close-knit community, which are the hallmarks of a Villanova education. I am now a second year MD candidate at Brown University thanks to my four years at Villanova.

Erin Neal, current Biology graduate student

Erin Neal

I recently completed my first year as part of the Master of Science program in the Department of Biology at Villanova University.  I came to Villanova from a small all women's institution in North Carolina, Salem College. Immediately after I arrived on campus, I was able to begin work in Dr. Wykoff's lab. The lab primarily works on molecular pathways in yeast. My project utilizes the Candida glabrata thiamine pathway previously characterized by former members of the Wykoff lab. Within the first few months of this project, I learned techniques that would make me highly marketable in industry, such as understanding and troubleshooting an HPLC.  Additionally, I have received financial support in the form of a teaching assistantship for the first three semesters.  Over the summer and second spring semester I will be supported by a National Science Foundation grant that was awarded to the Wykoff lab.  However, what brought me here and kept me here is the dynamic within the lab.  My mentor told me your lab becomes your family, and that is certainly what I have experienced here at Villanova.


Daniel Paluh, current Biology graduate student

Daniel Paluh

My name is Daniel Paluh, and I am a MS student in the Department of Biology at Villanova University. I was born and raised in Erie, Pennsylvania and received a BS in Biology from John Carroll University in 2014. From an early age, I enjoyed spending time outdoors and observing wildlife, and these hobbies developed into an academic interest in organismal and evolutionary biology. I was fortunate to gain research experience as an undergraduate student in a number of fields, such as studying the cranial anatomy of sharks and turtles, the ecology of amphibians, and the population genetics of songbirds. During this time, my professional interests and goals refined to become an academic researcher and professor of biology who specializes in the anatomical evolution of reptiles.

I chose to pursue a graduate degree in biology at Villanova University because of the great research and teaching opportunities that are provided to students in the program. My thesis research involves using innovative technology, including high-resolution micro-CT scanning, to study the anatomy of lizards in an evolutionary and functional context under the direction of Dr. Aaron Bauer. This research has resulted in presentations at national scientific conferences and will be published in peer-review publications. I have gained valuable educational skills, such as course preparation and lecturing techniques, through being a teaching assistant for general biology and vertebrate comparative anatomy courses. These experiences at Villanova have prepared me exceptionally well to achieve my goals, and I feel confident in pursuing a PhD program and future academic positions due to the skills I have developed as a graduate student in the Department of Biology.

Melissa Pastore, current Biology graduate student

Melissa Pastore

The path leading to my second year as a Biology Master’s student at Villanova is permeated with irreplaceable experiences and characters met along the way. While much of value can be learned about biology in the world of books and literature, I far prefer seeking out opportunities to learn in the world surrounding me. I’ve been trapped by bison herds, stuck neck-deep in marsh mud, ambushed by bears, and graced with the discovery of life thriving in the unlikeliest of environments. The curiosity that drove me to seek understanding of the ecological phenomena around me, whether in my own adventures or early research experiences, also sparked my desire to become a field ecologist. I attended Penn State as an undergraduate, where I majored in biology and was involved in research aimed at understanding how temperate trees respond to seasonal cues both above and belowground. At Villanova, my interest in biogeochemistry and ecosystem ecology strengthened as a result of my amazing research experience, the contagious enthusiasm for science of my mentors and peers, and the insight I gained through coursework. Graduate biology courses at Villanova offer numerous opportunities to develop both lab and field research skills. For example, I developed an independent project as part of a course that involved travel to the Yucatán Peninsula, which allowed me to develop skills beyond those I gained from my thesis research. A large portion of my research happens in the field, so I’ve spent a lot of time at my field site along the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. I’m investigating how global changes like elevated CO2 and nitrogen pollution affect nutrient cycles, plant responses, and greenhouse gas mitigation in a brackish marsh. As a graduate student at Villanova, I have enhanced my knowledge of ecological systems, future environmental problems, and integrated approaches to solve these problems. I have also served as a teaching assistant and spent time in a 5th grade classroom leading science lessons and experiments I’ve designed. Moving forward, I’ll carry what I’ve learned over the past two years to continue investigating the effects of global change on ecosystems as a Ph.D. student.