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Biology Alumni Profiles
Nicole Havrilchak Print

I graduated from West Chester University in 2013 with a B.S. in General Biology. After completing my undergraduate degree, I decided to stay at WCU in pursuit of a master's degree to better tailor my degree to include more ecology and plant science coursework and also to gain more hands-on research and fieldwork experience. As part of my thesis, I did research in serpentine barrens ecosystems with Jessica Schedlbauer to examine the ecophysiology of greenbrier encroachment into patches of native grassland. Research with Dr. Schedlbauer's lab afforded me invaluable experience with the ecological research and scientific writing processes. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the Ecological Society of America's annual conference and publish my work while at WCU. After graduating (again!) I worked at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA for two years on a temporary research project as a Research Specialist. My role there involved documenting plant species throughout the Gardens, maintaining an herbarium, and engaging with the public. I'm excited to return to school in Fall 2018 to begin a PhD in Ecosystem Science and Management at Texas A&M University. While there, I will be studying the ecology of woody encroachment and grass performance in Texas rangelands.
Michael Mercandate Print

I graduated from West Chester University in the spring of 2017 with a Bachelors degree in Pharmaceutical Product Development and a Chemistry Minor. While at West Chester, I worked in Dr. Donze-Reiner's lab doing research with aphids and switchgrass. During my time at West Chester, I learned many techniques which have greatly helped me in my current position. As of now, I am working as a Research Specialist at the University of Pennsylvania in Penn Image Guided Interventions lab. Our lab is comprised of interventional radiologists and molecular biologists who collaborate to identify and develop novel imaging agents and therapeutics for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) patients. One of the many projects I am working is a CRISPR knock out screen which attempts to identify new targets for HCC. I am currently deciding if I want to pursue a PhD or a degree in medicine. My experiences at West Chester allow me to pursue a career in science and provide me with the tools I need to be successful.
Lukas Bernhardt Print

I began my time at West Chester University in the fall of 2011 as a music education major.  After one year of trombone, I decided to switch to the biology department to pursue a B.S. in Biology with an Ecological Concentration.  Within the biology department I found a great community of students and professors who supported and helped me to complete my goals.  During my senior year at WCU I worked as the assistant stewardship manager of the Gordon Natural Area (GNA).  This position involved managing reforestation efforts on West Chesters campus as well as the surrounding community, monitoring for invasive species such as the Emerald Ash Borer and educating students about the local ecology of the GNA.  I was also able to conduct independent research during my senior year in an effort to determine baseline soil conditions of four local Delaware hayfields.  This research, conducted under the guidance of Dr. Schedlbauer, gave me exceptional experience in designing, conducting, writing and presenting ecological research.  Since my time at West Chester, I completed a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail and interned on two small scale organic farms.  My experience interning at Mountain Cloud Farm in Clark Fork, ID brought into focus the importance of caring for soils to preserve ecosystem health and productivity in food production.  This upcoming fall, I will be entering the graduate program at the University of New Hampshire.  I plan to conduct research regarding the microbiology of agricultural soils in an effort to use community composition, functional groups and other metrics to better predict and determine soil health.  The research I conducted during undergrad educated me on soil physical properties and my continuing education will be focused on the biotic component of soils to help round out my understanding of soils as a whole.
Leah Kuntz Print

I graduated from West Chester University in the spring of 2017 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Cell and Molecular Biology. While at West Chester, I was a student research assistant in Dr. Donze-Reiners laboratory and studied calcium-dependent protein kinase regulation in Seteria italica during Greenbug Aphid infestation. The experience I gained in this lab  both scientific and professional  provided me with the skills and confidence to move forward with my goals. I now work as a Research Specialist the Gene Therapy Program at the University of Pennsylvania. Our lab studies orphan diseases, meaning those which affect less than 200,000 individuals worldwide and, therefore, existing research is limited. The connections, inspiration, and education I received at WCU have allowed me to be the youngest person currently employed in this program, to be nominated for an award of excellence, and provided me with a position that makes a major difference in the lives of many whom previously had limited hope for improved care. I am taking graduate classes while working and plan to return to school in spring 2019. 
Kalin Konrad Print

I graduate from West Chester University in the Spring of 2017 with a B.S. in Biology. Since then, I have been studying at University of Delaware's molecular biology and genetics program pursing my master's degree and soon to switch to the PhD track. I am in a developmental biology lab studying neurogenesis in Strongylocentrotus purpuratus (purple sea urchin). I spend most of my time doing research, but I also have classes and teach labs. West Chester helped me get exposed to research and understand how to balance my schedule between class and lab work. At West Chester I worked in Dr. Sullivan-Brown's lab studying folic acid synthesis in Caenorhabditis elegans (roundworm). Even though I am working on a different model organism it was easy to use the techniques I learned from her lab and transfer them into my new lab at Delaware. Dr. Sullivan-Brown also introduced me to conferences which is where I met my current Principal Investigator (P.I).  The knowledge I gained from my undergraduate degree aid in my passion for research and gave me the tools to succeed in graduate school.
Calvin Cooper Print

I transferred to WCU in Fall 2013 to pursue a B.S. in Biology with a Concentration in Ecology and Conservation. During my first semester at WCU, I developed an interest in plant ecology, and the robustness of WCU's course catalog enabled me to tailor my curriculum around this interest. As a student at WCU, I learned how to think and write like a scientist. I gained invaluable research experience in the Schedlbauer Lab by designing, planning, and executing an independent research project on canopy leaf physiology of trees across an urban to suburban gradient, in collaboration with the US Forest Service. I graduated in Fall 2014 after completing 33 credits (11 courses) in the Biology Department. After graduating from WCU, I worked as an intern and seasonal employee in the Natural Lands Department at Mt. Cuba Center, a botanic garden located in Hockessin, Delaware, where I helped to manage nearly 500 acres of natural lands. In July 2017, I began working as a Land Stewardship Technician at Longwood Gardens, a botanic garden located in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. As a Land Stewardship Technician, I educate the public, help manage a volunteer program, and use hands-on land management techniques such as prescribed burning, invasive species removal, and planting native plant species for restoration, all with the goal of promoting the biodiversity and resiliency of the native flora and fauna of Longwood Gardens' natural lands.

Brittney Semone Print

SemoneI graduated from West Chester University in the Fall of 2014 with a BS in Biology (Ecology and Conservation). During the many field courses taken at WCU I developed a strong admiration for the outdoors.  Since graduating I have worked with invasive plant species in California, threatened desert tortoises in Nevada, and forest conditions and dynamics in Alaska. Working as a field technician has allowed me to live and work in places I never imagined to find myself.  I started my journey as an Invasive Plant Treatment Technician with the Nevada Conservation Corps and AmeriCorps. I worked on a crew collecting data and eradicating the invasive tree species, Tamarisk, on the Amargosa River in California. I later worked with AmeriCorps and The Great Basin Institute as a Desert Tortoise Monitoring Technician in the Mojave Desert of Southern Nevada. As monitoring technicians, our crew worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to perform line distance sampling, handling, and tagging of the desert tortoise, Gopherus agassizii, to monitor long term population trends. Following work in the desert I then worked in the Alaska Interior as a Forestry Field Assistant with the University of Alaska Fairbanks. We measured tree growth and took general vegetation surveys and soil samples. Studying Ecology and Conservation at WCU has exposed me to field work and techniques during outdoor labs and has lead to a career of field work and memorable experiences.
Scott Musser Print

musserI graduated from West Chester University in December of 2015 with a B.S. in Biology (Ecology and Conservation) and a minor in Geography. In March of 2016 I began working at Kennett Square Golf and Country Club as an Ecology Intern. I began by working on a stream restoration project and by completing basic golf course tasks such as raking bunkers. I quickly worked my way up and now have responsibilities including: mowing and hand watering greens, changing hole locations, and measuring green speeds. I was tasked with the job of turning a previously mown area into a meadow in the middle of July and succeeded based on knowledge that I gained from ecology courses here at West Chester University. It has now been 5 months since I began this job and I have already been promoted to the Assistant Superintendent in training. I am now taking classes at Penn State University to obtain a Certificate in Turfgrass Management. By achieving this I will be able to become a Certified Golf Course Superintendent. I am very proud to be a West Chester University Alumni. I wear my WCU hat to work every day and I am quick to inform everyone on how outstanding our biology department is. I would not have been able to achieve any of this without the help of my ecology professors, and for that I am very thankful.
Carly Farrell Print

FarrellI graduated from West Chester University in May 2014 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology (Cell and Molecular Biology) and a Chemistry minor. During the fall of my senior year, I volunteered with in the laboratories of Drs. Phares and Gestl. In the spring I completed independent research with Dr. Phares. Our project focused on isolating a particular genetic sequence, conopressin (mammalian homologs oxytocin/vasopressin), in a species of gastropods, Helisoma trivolvis. I performed genetic amplification and sequencing in order to isolate the gene. I gained extensive, valuable experience working in the lab, and I enjoyed my experience so much that I accepted my first job as a Research Specialist at the Medical University of South Carolina performing breast and oral cancer research. I am now a technician in the pediatric ED at the same hospital, and am entering Physician Assistant school this fall.  West Chester University provided a great foundation for my chosen path in medicine.
Brett Mitchell Print

MitchellI graduated from West Chester University in the spring of 2016 with a B.S. in Biology (Integrative Concentration) and a minor in Chemistry.  I will be attending Bay Path University in June of 2016 pursuing a Master’s degree in Physician Assistant Studies.  As a West Chester student, I was highly involved with the biology department, as well as volunteering for the community as an Emergency Medical Technician for Good Fellowship Ambulance Club.  One of my proudest accomplishments at West Chester was completing independent research for the department with my advisor.  We studied learning and memory of respiratory behavior in Helisoma trivolvis.  My experiences at West Chester University have molded my outlook on biology, healthcare, and overall success.  I am proud to consider myself a West Chester University alumni and am excited to see what the future holds!  
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