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CU Science Students Intern at Johns Hopkins


Caldwell, N.J., September 16, 2016 – Two Caldwell University science students and one recent alumna were selected to intern at the world-renowned teaching and biomedical hospital Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.

Students Pamela Marte and Juan Garcia and recent grad Christina Blonski-Cupo were chosen to participate in the JH Bloomberg School of Public Health Diversity Summer Internship Program.

Marte was “honored and humbled” to be working in the building with so much science history. She was assigned to the cytokine research lab in the clinical immunology lab, working directly with Dr. Barbara Detrick, a professor of pathology at the JH University School of Medicine. Detrick, a Caldwell University alumna, formed the partnership between Caldwell and Johns Hopkins, which was offered for the second year in a row.

Garcia and Blonski also had the chance to meet Detrick. “She is an inspiration,” said Blonski-Cupo ’16.

Marte’s assignment, “Evaluation of Cytokines in Autoimmune Retinopathy,” looked at the cytokine levels in patients with a very rare eye condition called autoimmune retinopathy or AIR.

Blonski interned in the infectious disease laboratory run by Dr. Petros Karakousis, associate professor of the Medicine Division of Infectious Diseases. Her project was titled “Evaluation of Mycobacterium smegmatis as an in vitro Model for Viable but Non-Culturable (VBNC) Bacteria.”

Garcia interned in the lab of Dr. Zhibin Wang, assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences in the Bloomberg School of Public Health.   Garcia’s project was titled “”The Role of CHD4 on Histone Recognition”. The experience was “fun, exciting, competitive and hard work,” he said.

“It was a demanding program” but definitely rewarding, said Marte.

Blonski-Cupo said she especially appreciated being able to meet and work with accomplished researchers.

Although they worked very hard, “there was a good balance of work and play,” said Marte. She enjoyed discovering Baltimore and taking the Amtrak to Washington, D.C. It was “great meeting new people”  and going to events and food tastings, said Garcia.

At the culmination of the internship, the students gave a poster, paper and PowerPoint project presentation. “I grew as a person and a professional,” said Marte. “This experience definitely confirmed my decision to pursue a career in research,” said Blonski-Cupo.

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CU Student Chosen for NJ Governor’s STEM Scholars Program


Alumna and current post-baccalaureate student Jessica Binkiewicz was chosen for the 2017 NJ Governor’s STEM Scholars program.

Caldwell, N.J., Sept. 14, 2016 – Caldwell University alumna and current post-baccalaureate student Jessica Binkiewicz was chosen for the prestigious 2017 New Jersey Governor’s STEM Scholars program.

The goal of the competitive program is to educate the best and brightest students about science, technology, engineering and math opportunities in New Jersey and to encourage the Garden State’s economic development.

Binkiewicz, the first Caldwell student selected for the program, was thrilled to learn that she was accepted and is looking forward to networking with professionals in New Jersey STEM fields, learning from prospective mentors and meeting other similar-minded young adults who share a passion for STEM.

She was selected to lead a research team for a project she created focusing on determining the inhibitory effects of Thieves oil on E. coli to explore new natural therapies for bacterial infections.  “I chose this topic because I believe it is crucial to look beyond allopathic treatments as they can cause pathogenic resistance, hence the formation of superbugs, and can also be expensive and cause adverse effects.” Binkiewicz hopes the findings can make a difference. “As a future physician, I understand how important scientific research is because it advances medicine and directly impacts people’s lives.”

A West Caldwell resident, Binkiewicz graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Caldwell in 2014.  She is now in the pre-medical post-baccalaureate program at Caldwell and plans to attend medical school.

While a post-baccalaureate student, she took an independent research study course with Science Professor Dr. Agnes Berki and presented her findings at William Paterson’s 10th annual research symposium and at Caldwell University’s Scholars’ Day.

Binkiewicz volunteers in the Emergency Department at Mountainside Hospital and is an active member of the Alpha Chi, Psi Chi, National Society of Leadership and Success, and Delta Epsilon Sigma honor societies.


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Science Student Presents at Undergraduate Research Symposium

Eva Suchar and her father Daniel Suchar at the symposium

Caldwell University biology major Eva Suchar presented her research findings at the third annual Independent College Fund of New Jersey’s Undergraduate Research Symposium at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City on March 7.

The conference features outstanding science, technology, math and engineering independent projects by students at New Jersey independent colleges and universities.

Suchar reported her findings on the “Optimization of Fluoridation using Streptococcus sanguinis and Streptococcus salivarius for Better Oral Hygiene” in the form of a poster presentation.

She began work on the project in September with her adviser Dr. Agnes Berki, associate professor of biology. There were some late nights in the lab, sometimes until midnight, but the work paid off, and it was especially nice to present to people who were “genuinely interested,” said Suchar. It was a “full research experience” because of Berki’s guidance. “She is absolutely brilliant, and I truly cherish every moment we worked together. We make a wonderful team.”

Senior biology major Christina Blonki accompanied Suchar as a co-author along with freshman biology majors Michelle Eng and Foujan Moghimi. The students “represented the university with exemplary professionalism,” said Berki.

For Suchar, one special aspect of the symposium was being able to have her father, Daniel Suchar, attend. He leaves in April for Kabul, Afghanistan, where he is a protective security specialist for the U.S. Embassy. “My dad has always been supportive of my work, which has brought out my confidence. If he can go into combat every day, I can certainly give a presentation to a bunch of fellow scientists.”

Suchar received a $1,000 research grant from the Independent College Fund of New Jersey, earning her the opportunity to participate in the symposium.

She was also featured in a Fios 1 News piece. To view the story go to this link.


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Faculty and Students Meet Nobel Laureate Kurt Wüthrich at Eastern Analytical Symposium and Present Poster

In front of poster (left to right) Dr. Berki, Dr. Commodari, Jen (Dohe) Han (Biology, Freshman), Marli Pimenta (presenting author, B.A., Biology, 2015), and Nikayla Goldenberg (Chemistry, Freshman)

Students meet Nobel Laureate Kurt Wüthrich (left to right) Dr. Fernando Commodari (Assistant Professor, Chemistry & Physics , Natural & Physical Sciences Department), Tulaja Shrestha (Junior & double major, Biology & Chemistry), Dr. Wüthrich, and Romina Ghale (Freshman, Biology

Freshmen, Jen (Dohe) Han (Freshman, Biology) and Nikayla Goldenberg (Freshman, Chemistry) visit exhibition that included over 400 Analytical Sciences vendors.

At Garden State Exposition Center. Somerset, NJ with Caldwell University students: Favour Garuba (Sophmore, Health Sciences), Rira Lee (Sophmore, Health Sciences), Tulaja Shrestha (Junior & double major, Biology & Chemistry) and Romina Ghale (Freshman, Biology)

Left to right Tulaja Shrestha (Junior & double major, Biology & Chemistry), Romina Ghale (Freshman, Biology), Professor Fernando Commodari (Natural and Physical Sciences), Favour Garuba (Sophmore, Health Sciences), and Rira Lee (Sophmore, Health Sciences), waiting for the plenary lecture to start.

Caldwell, N.J., Feb. 2, 2016 – Science faculty and students had the thrill of meeting Nobel Laureate Kurt Wüthrich at the Eastern Analytical Symposium in November.

Biology Professor Agnes Berki and Chemistry and Physics Professor Fernando Commodari, along with nine students in biology and chemistry, attended the conference held in Somerset, New Jersey. They presented their peer-reviewed work, “Antibiotic Effects of Essential Oils: Clove and Oregano Oils, on Cariogenic Bacteria as Studied by Microbiological and NMR Techniques,” as poster 199 in the Bioanalysis II session on Nov. 17. Marli Pimenta, who received her bachelor’s degree in biology in 2015, presented the original research findings showing that oregano-essential oil and clove-essential oil inhibit cariogenic bacteria more selectively than good bacteria.

Several students attended a plenary lecture on Nov. 16 on “NMR: From Man to Molecules,” given by Nobel Laureate Kurt Wüthrich. Berki said Wüthrich recounted how original ideas in science don’t immediately have obvious applications that directly impact humanity. “There have been several Nobel prizes awarded in the area of developing nuclear magnetic resonance methodology long before the now-familiar MRI images that we all recognize in clinical diagnostic and research medicine/science.”

After the talk, some of the students were introduced to Wüthrich by Commodari, who almost 25 years ago was invited to do his postdoctoral studies using nuclear magnetic resonance at ETH in the Wüthrich lab. “I was delighted to introduce our students to a guru of mine, Professor Wüthrich, who spoke with them about graduate research now underway in his group at Scripps, La Jolla, California,” said Commodari.

Junior Tulaja Shrestha , who is majoring in biology and chemistry, said she appreciated the opportunity to meet “such a humble genius.” It was “especially great to be able to pick a Nobel laureate’s brain and learn more about his contribution to chemistry.” Wüthrich received the Nobel prize in chemistry in 2002.

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Science students present at ICFNJ undergraduate research symposium


Caldwell, N.J., April 21, 2015 –

Caldwell University Science Students presented their research at the Independent College Fund of New Jersey Undergraduate Research Symposium “Investing in Students Investing in New Jersey” on March 30 at Liberty Science Center.  Led by their professor, Dr. Agnes Berki, Caldwell students Laura Prioteasa, Jaimie Peter, and Tulaja Shrestha joined their peers from other colleges and universities to share their poster presentations with a panel of judges made up of professionals from New Jersey’s leading top industries, ICFNJ member institutions, and trustees.

Dr. Berki said the symposium “provided a wonderful opportunity for our students to practice the final steps of scientific method and share the results of their findings. All three of our students exhibited preparedness and professionalism.”

Prioteasa, a biology and secondary education major, won an Outstanding Presentation Research Symposium award for her research project on “Investigation of the Quantity of E. coli in Relation to Other Bacteria on Computer Keyboards in University Settings.”

Shrestha, a biology major with a chemistry minor, conducted research on the “Study of a Natural and Innovative Antifungal Treatment for Athlete’s Foot.” She was grateful to Nature’s Pavilion in Pompton Plains for providing the test material, Bioessence Antifungal Oil.

Shrestha and Prioteasa are ICFNJ undergraduate research symposium grant recipients.

Peter, a biology major with chemistry and business administration minors, researched “The Effects of Dental Hygiene Products on the Growth Properties of S. sanguinis in the Health Oral Flora”.  Peter was a recipient of the Novartis Science Scholarship and the Schering-Plough Undergraduate Research Scholarship.

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Biology Students Attend Research Symposium and Receive Roche Research Grant


Several students from Science Professor Agnes Berki’s Biology Research course attended the 16th Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium in the Chemical and Biological Sciences at University of Maryland Baltimore County on Oct. 26. “This was a great opportunity for our students to learn about research conducted by peers at different institutions. It also served as an inspiration and helped them to better understand their own role to scientific research,” Berki said.                        

Two of the students, Candice Johnson and Albert Mensah, were recipients of an Independent College Fund of New Jersey Undergraduate Research Symposium Grant funded by Roche Foundation and the Council of Independent Colleges. The grant is designed to inspire students to pursue their interests and to reinforce learning through hands-on and inquiry-based science activities. With the guidance of Professor Berki, who is their faculty advisor, they are spending the academic year researching new toothpaste and tooth powder formulations for efficacy in prevention of dental plaque formation.

Assisting Johnson and Mensah are students Aaron Choi, Jaimie Peter and Kristen Knorr. Alumnus Anup Khanal ’13 is the teaching assistant. Johnson and Mensah will present their findings to peers and research professionals in March at the ICFNJ Undergraduate Research Symposium.