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Agnes Berki: Expanding Research Efforts and Inspiring Students

Enjoying a roller coaster ride at Six Flags with your professor might not be what students are expecting when they decide to study science with Dr. Agnes Berki, yet that is exactly the kind of unexpected adventure that awaits them. “We tried many rides and screamed together on many of them. We all had a great time!” recalled Berki, as if a day of laughter at a theme park is routine for biology students. Yet for Berki, who regularly treats her students to excursions like field trips or dinner, all the screams and laughter are for a serious purpose. “These outside activities are important. Those experiences transform the class into a team, and later, into a true research team.”

For Berki, an associate professor of biology in the Natural and Physical Sciences Department, inspiring her students to take on new challenges together is critical to success. At first glance, these extracurricular activities may not seem necessary, but Berki emphasizes the important role they play in forging a bond among her students and transforming them from simply classmates into a team. “This transition happens every year, sometimes quicker, and sometimes it takes a longer time, but it happens eventually, and that is the point when students become one team. They feel freer to help each other, to ask advice, to give or accept constructive criticism.” It is important, she says, for students to realize that research is a team effort –“that in a team we all work for the same goal, and we all matter; all of our opinions are valued. The fun activities make the class more enjoyable, and they also help to build friendships.”

Facing challenges, embracing change and keeping an upbeat outlook have been themes throughout much of Berki’s life. Born in Hungary, she grew up with Russian troops everywhere. The atmosphere was oppressive. “You couldn’t say anything. There was no freedom of speech.” This lack of freedom was driven home when her father, who had been a successful lawyer, refused to sign an execution order for political prisoners. “They said okay, you will not wind up in Siberia but you cannot practice. So he changed his career and went into business.” Berki’s curiosity drove her to question her father about the political situation, but he would respond, “I can’t tell you because even the walls have ears.”

Despite the presence of troops, Berki recalls her childhood fondly, noting that her father, “one of the greatest influences of my life,” bought her a piano and taught her how to take care of herself by learning useful skills like fixing her bike. He encouraged her to have confidence in her intelligence and her ability to learn. The only time she brought home a bad grade, Berki came to her father crying. “He said to me, ‘You can stop crying. I’m not going to punish you. You see all the marks you ever get in life, you get for yourself. You’re not getting it for me. So if you get a good mark, it’s to your credit. And if you get a bad mark, it’s your fault. It doesn’t matter for me whether you get good or bad marks. I will still love you. You study for yourself.’ From that time on, I was never afraid.”

Berki’s father found great success in business, the career forced upon him. The family moved frequently, and Berki attended two kindergartens before changing schools several times more. Just before the eighth grade, the family moved again, this time a half-hour from her previous school, but when it came time to start a new one, Berki put her foot down. “I told my dad, ‘Okay, I am not going to a new school for the eighth grade,’ so I traveled on the bus every day so I didn’t have to go to a new school.”

Moving frequently as a child helped Berki when it came time for her to move to the United States. “We moved so many times that it prepped me for a big move over the ocean.” She was just 26 years old and six months away from finishing a Ph.D. program in neuroscience when she relocated to the U.S. The move was difficult since she did not speak English. She had to restart all her studies. Without the support of her family and friends, it would have been a struggle to adjust to her new country.

“Coming here was a big shock for many different reasons. The windows open differently; the faucets work differently—I burned myself many times. For the first three months, I wrote a letter to my mom every day.” It took Berki a year to learn English, helped along by watching the movie “Mrs. Doubtfire” daily. America was completely different from her homeland. “We grew up in an environment where you always have to watch out. And then you come here, and compared to there, it is a vacuum. You can say anything. You can think anything. It’s a big shock culturally and politically.”

She began working as a special volunteer in the neuroscience lab at the National Institutes of Health. “I worked there for three months, and I was lucky because in the lab where I worked there was a Hungarian lady, so she taught me.” Berki learned polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, a method used for the Human Genome Project. “I had a great relationship with them. I got recommendation letters from them.” After leaving the NIH, she got a job at the University of Maryland at Baltimore School of Pharmacy as a lab technician, preparing the lab for experiments. She continued studying English and took the GRE.

“After two years, I started to realize the beauty of the United States and the beauty of freedom and free speech.” While only six months away from finishing her Ph.D. back in Hungary, Berki began the incredible challenge of starting over again at the Maryland school of pharmacy. Majoring in molecular biology with a minor in pharmaceutical sciences, Berki finished her Ph.D. The initial setback of starting over “made me a stronger person. I don’t shy away from challenges.” When anyone doubts her ability to achieve a goal, she becomes even more determined. She recalled how someone once told her she would never receive a hefty—and very competitive—nationwide scholarship, so she set out to prove the person wrong and wound up being awarded a significant portion of the scholarship. “I only applied because someone said I could never get it.”

In 2006, Berki became a senior scientist at Schering-Plough Research Institute where she oversaw research, development and improvements of assay methodologies. In 2010, she became senior scientist and virologist at Gibraltar Laboratories, Inc., handling composition and submission of laboratory reports to clients. Also in 2010, Berki came to Caldwell and immediately began to make her mark. “I am fortunate to teach at Caldwell University. The same ideology of developing well-rounded individuals in a nurturing and supporting environment, which was the inspiration of the founding Sisters of St. Dominic almost a century ago, is still the heart and soul of our institution today.” After crossing an ocean to start anew, Berki says, “I think I am where I am supposed to be.”

In only a short time, Berki has become a guiding force in the university’s goal to expand its research efforts, starting with inspiring her students to embrace Caldwell’s challenges and benefits.

Berki does independent research with students, helping them to select the best focus from a list of 10 potential topics and then guiding them through the process of writing a proposal for money. “Our greatest supporter is the Independent College Fund of New Jersey. It’s a wonderful thing because it’s a students’ idea and it’s funded by an outside source to be completed. It looks awesome on their résumés.” Known for staying late on campus—sometimes until midnight—to work with her students on their research, Berki has inspired many to strive for the highest standards. As recent biology graduate Eva Suchar says, “When I presented my research, it really felt like working with Dr. Berki was prize enough.”

Berki guides the students through conducting research and then creating the posters for their presentations, which requires working all the way through Saturday and Sunday. They then spend the week before their conference practicing presentations. “That’s another long day because they take turns so one will give a presentation, and then we give pointers and feedback and they practice again. We do it as many times until we say, ‘Okay, that is good.’” Berki motivates her students to embrace the hard work and challenges, to seek knowledge to better themselves, much in the same way her father taught her so many years ago, when she tearfully brought home a bad grade, to be unafraid to fail.

She has been chair of the university’s Research Task Force, which held the first Caldwell Research and Creative Arts Day this past April. Berki hopes the annual research day will increase visibility inside and outside the university and highlight all the outstanding research being conducted at Caldwell. She is always emphasizing to her students how important it is to become engaged in research, as they will learn teamwork, interpersonal skills, troubleshooting and analysis, which graduate schools and prospective employers highly value.

Berki has very high hopes for her students. “We have more and more students who are interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in different fields of science. My very first honors student is focused on going into a Ph.D. program. And now I have a freshman who wants to get a Ph.D. in neuroscience.”

But Berki wants her students not only to stand out in their fields, but more important, to be upstanding human beings. “I truly hope they will always remember that paying attention to details, hard work and integrity will always pay off no matter what careers they choose and what they will do in their lives.” Her father chose to start over again rather than be a part of something unjust, and in the process he became a successful businessman and an inspiration to his daughter. Berki too has had to unexpectedly start over again, only to achieve success and joy that she cherishes. It’s no wonder there is so much wisdom in her advice to students. “I hope they will keep in mind that life is not a straight march.”

One day over the summer, Berki came in to her office to work, only to find an envelope from a recent graduate taped to her door. Written on it were the words “Legjobb Tanar”—Hungarian for “the best teacher.” Indeed.  n

—By Sara Courtney

Things you might not know about Agnes Berki

Her favorite book is “The Ingenious Nobleman Mister Quixote of La Mancha” by Miguel de Cervantes. Berki is inspired by Don Quixote and his ability to see the good in each person he meets. “He is also able to make people realize their own value and help them embrace it, touching their life for the better.”

She sings with the Caldwell Music Department’s choir. “I love to sing and I sang all my life. I was always a part of church choirs in every church I’ve attended. Sometimes I was a part of two choirs.” While in Baltimore, she attended the historic St. Alphonsus Church and was a member of the regular English choir and the Latin choir.

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Biology student interns at Johns Hopkins

Veronica Guirguis and Dr.  Barbara Detrick, Caldwell alumna and a professor of pathology at the JH University School of Medicine.
Caldwell Biology student Veronica Guirguis with John Hopkins Diversity Summer Internship Program director Jessica Harrington.
Caldwell Biology student Veronica Guirguis (2nd from left) at her internship poster presentation at Johns Hopkins.  She is pictured with her mentors and colleagues.

Biology student Veronica Guirguis spent the summer interning at the world-renowned teaching and biomedical hospital, Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.

Guirguis, a sophomore, was grateful to have the chance to work with “brilliant people” including Dr. Christopher Heaney, associate professor in the School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins, and Dr.  Barbara Detrick, a professor of pathology at the JH University School of Medicine, and a Caldwell University alumna.  Guirguis also appreciated the introduction to virology provided by John Hooks, Ph.D. of the National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health.

Guirguis was on a team that researched “Detection of IL-6 in Hepatitis E Virus Infection.”   “We found that IL-6 is upregulated in HEV infection which participates in inflammation,” she said.

Caldwell University’s Natural and Physical Sciences Department prepared her well for the internship.  When she started working with petri dishes at JH she said, “I”ve got this.  I’ve been prepared for this,” recalling how she had learned about plate pouring techniques in Caldwell Science Professor Agnes Berki’s labs.

The internship, she said, gave her a “confidence boost” and she appreciated being able to network with professionals. She says she has a clearer vision of the steps she will need to take to pursue immunology studies as part of a combined M.D. /Ph.D. program.

In addition to the studies, there was time to discover the city of Baltimore, it’s “beauty and history”, she said, and enjoy dinner one evening on the famous Inner Harbor with the other students and faculty.  “Everyone was so nice. They made you fall in love with the campus and Baltimore.”

It was the third year that Caldwell students were selected to participate in the JH Bloomberg School of Public Health Diversity Summer Internship Program. Dr.  Detrick formed the partnership between Caldwell and Johns Hopkins.

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Biology students selected for summer premedical program

Biology students Shanice Edwards and Roksana Korbi were selected for the Premedical Urban Leaders Summer Enrichment Program.
Biology major Shanice Edwards and Director of Caldwell’s Educational Opportunity Fund Andrei St. Felix. Edwards is showing her research project for the Premedical Urban Leaders Summer Enrichment Program.

Biology students Shanice Edwards and Roksana Korbi learned about urban health through the Premedical Urban Leaders Summer Enrichment Program at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University.

PULSE gives undergraduate students interested in healthcare exposure to the medical professions. The six-week forum provided academic, clinical, research and service learning opportunities.  “I was honored and privileged to be accepted into such a rigorous and prestigious program,” said Edwards.

“My favorite workshop was the suturing workshop and the simulation labs where we pretended to be doctors,” said Korbi.

Edwards said it was especially rewarding to learn about Camden and help the city through volunteering at the non-profit organization Ronald McDonald House where she did activities with children ages 16 and under.

Korbi volunteered at The Neighborhood Center, a non-profit organization aimed at helping  families get out of poverty.  She and her group did research on the urban farm located at the back of the center.  “Our goal was to increase awareness so people could go and get free fresh food from the farm and live  healthier lives,” said Korbi.

The program culminated with a symposium where students highlighted their research for family, friends and guests.

Korbi and Edwards found that PULSE provided them with good information on the steps they would need to take to plan for medical school.

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Koumudi Thirunagaru – The dream of attending medical school becomes a reality

Koumudi Thirunagaru started thinking about becoming a doctor at a young age. She volunteered at Stanford Children’s Hospital near her home in San Ramon, California, and she took AP biology at Homestead High School and found the subject constantly stimulating.

Caldwell has been her home away from home. She began college at Caldwell as a biology major. “I became involved in everything that had to do with the medical field my first year including being an officer for the Health Professions Club.” The idea of pursuing a career in medicine “turned from a fantasized” dream to a realistic goal.” During the summer between her freshman and sophomore years, she went on a medical mission to Nicaragua, an eye-opening experience that spurred her to pursue a minor in Spanish.

Thirunagaru will be taking a step closer to her goal of becoming a doctor when she begins her studies at George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, D.C., in the fall. The faculty at Caldwell have helped her in the process. “I received a lot of guidance from Dr. William Velhagen. The professors are easily approachable. They are not just teachers but also mentors—inside and outside the classroom.”

She received her bachelor’s in biology with minors in chemistry and Spanish at graduation on May 21. She excelled during her undergraduate years, receiving departmental honors in the Department of Natural and Physical Sciences and being involved in a number of activities including holding leadership positions in the Health Professions Club, playing tennis all four years, tutoring in the Academic Success Center and working as a scribe at a hospital in Newark. She appreciated being given opportunities for community service ranging from planning the annual Halloween-for-hunger drive to attending Midnight Runs for the homeless in New York City and volunteering at the annual Caldwell Day.

Thirunagaru finished her coursework last December and taught grammar school children math and English at an after-school center and privately tutored in art. Her artwork appeared in this year’s edition of Calyx, a Caldwell student journal of literature and art. Caldwell has been her home away from home, especially since her family lives on the West Coast. The university’s cohesiveness makes it special for her. “It’s a circle, a family.” Thirunagaru advises incoming students to get involved quickly. “Students make the school. Take advantage of what you have, and never lose sight of your dreams, regardless of the daily battles.”

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Alumna, physical therapist encourages STEM exploration

Credits tuition aid grant program with giving her the stepping stone for her education

“Rewarding” does not begin to describe the feeling Caldwell University alumna Monique Pineros  has every day when she heads out the door to work as a physical therapist. “Bringing back a human body to its normal functions with one’s hands is truly an art,” she says.

Pineros remembers her days at Caldwell and how her exposure to the liberal arts and to the diversity of campus life helped prepare her for the dream of entering the medical field. After receiving her doctorate in physical therapy from Quinnipiac University in 2016, she began to practice physical therapy and teach as an adjunct in Caldwell’s Natural and Physical Sciences Department.

“It all would never have been possible without that first stepping-stone, which was Caldwell University, along with the help of TAG,” she says. TAG is a New Jersey  need based grant program that  helps lower income students achieve their dream of receiving a college education.

“When I stand behind the podium in the classroom or evaluate and treat my patients in the clinic, I am constantly reminded that everyone has the potential to become their very best. The trick lies in becoming the individual’s first pusher in order to tap into it.”

Having been “fortunate enough and blessed to be on that receiving side,” Pineros wants to give back. “I too want to be on the other side to help that individual, whether student or patient.

“Coming from a family with financial hardships, I realized I required all the help necessary in order to make my dreams of a college education a reality. TAG was able to provide me with the financial bridge I needed to fulfill my academic studies at Caldwell University.”

Caldwell exposed her to a liberal arts foundation and to a diverse student body. “As a practicing physical therapist, I am able to clearly see the connections from the classroom theory I was given at Caldwell as well as the wealth of knowledge I gained from the interactions with my former peers to that of my current patient population. Not only was I given the academic foundation to pursue graduate studies but also the foundation to interact with patients in the clinic from all ages and walks of life.”

Having the opportunity to interact one on one with her professors at Caldwell and to create trusting relationships made her comfortable with the exchange of ideas at the professional and personal levels. “This was and is quintessential to my everyday life, in and outside of clinical practice.”

Pineros wants to help others who have talents in the STEM fields to be forward-thinking and passionate. “Marrying my love of physical therapy and clinical practice to that of teaching is what I aspire towards because not only do I want to inspire the generations after me in the classroom, I want to ignite a fire and thirst for never-ending exploration for the sciences, health and our future innovations.”

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Science Students take top prizes at ICFNJ Undergrad Research Symposium

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Caldwell, N.J. March 7, 2017 – Caldwell University science students took first and second place prizes at the Independent College Fund of New Jersey’s Undergraduate Research Symposium. Deborah Balthazar and Amanda Surujnauth received the first place Outstanding Poster Presentation award for their project “What is on your toothbrush? Are you brushing with fecal matter?” They focused on assessing toothbrush microbial contamination from toilet aerosols and on offering suggestions for storage and decontamination. They wanted to engage in something practical that would interest people and that “people deserve to know,” said Balthazar.

Student Gianna C. Klucker received the second place Outstanding Poster Presentation award for her project “Creation of a Novel Deodorant Using Essential Oils.”

Five other students in Natural and Physical Sciences faculty Dr. Agnes Berki’s research, conduct and composition biology class presented their projects at the symposium at Liberty Science Center, where they heard from leading New Jersey professionals in the STEM fields who gave them professional advice and insight.

ICFNJ began the symposium in 2014 to offer new undergraduate grants to its member institutions. The grants connect students with peer and faculty mentors who are engaged in research.

Also on display was Won Seok Choi and Steven S. Han’s project “Investigation of Microorganisms on Smartphones.” They found an alarming number of microorganisms and showed that smartphones can serve as a source of infections, underscoring the need to sterilize phones.

Han says doing the research gave him the chance to “put into practice the science method and see how it plays out when doing research.”

The symposium is the culmination of months of hard work by students, said Berki. “It solidifies their STEM training and prepares them for the world.”

The projects gave the students the chance to work outside the classroom or the lab and learn to work one-on-one. They develop professionally, academically and personally and learn about teamwork and public speaking, explained Berki. In addition, they “play off of each other’s strengths” and enhance their critical thinking skills, said Dr. Darryl Aucoin, assistant professor of chemistry, who worked with student Daniel Outo-Acheampong on his project “Optimizing the Growth Conditions for a Cellulose-Producing Bacterium.”

Science students Yara Abdelnabi and Michael James presented on “Optimization of Human DNA Detection in Unclean Teeth.”

Dr. Barbara Chesler, vice president for academic affairs, said doing undergraduate research is very valuable for students because they look at the reason for what they are learning and it makes them more marketable for graduate school. “It helps their chances of competing against other students for graduate school admissions,” she said.

The projects were not only educational but fun, said Han. “Dr. Berki was a great help. The students give each other moral support and helped each other out.” The research brings a “practicality to the lectures,” said Surujnauth.

The students are looking forward to displaying their work on campus at Caldwell’s research day April 26 when the university will showcase student, faculty and staff research projects across all disciplines.

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Science Students Present at Biologists’ Conference

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Caldwell, N.J. Nov. 1, 2016 –Five students and an alumna from the Department of Natural and Physical Sciences participated in the 49th Annual Metropolitan Association of College and University Biologists Conference Oct. 29 at State University of New York at Old Westbury, N.Y.  The theme of the conference was “The Dance of the Genes: From Cancer to Conversation.”

Two students from a current research class—Won Moses Choi and Daniel Otuo-Acheampong—and one interested freshman-Anika Sanjana participated to learn and observe the conference atmosphere.

Students Pamela Marte and Juan Garcia and recent graduate Christina Blonski-Cupo presented the work they completed as interns at the JH Bloomberg School of Public Health Diversity Summer Internship Program.

“They all have done a wonderful job of explaining their findings to their peers,”
said Dr. Agnes Berki. associate professor of biology. “The conference featured exceptional speakers including Dr. Jill Bargonetti (professor of biological sciences at Hunter College and cancer researcher) who made the audience dance a correct p53 “DNA dance” and a mutated p53 “DNA dance”. We had much fun participating.”

Marte received a second prize award in the category of Microbiology/Immunology for her poster titled: Evaluation of Cytokines in Autoimmune Retinopathy that she completed working with Dr. Barbara Detrick, a professor of pathology at the JH University School of Medicine.

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CU Science Students Intern at Johns Hopkins

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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

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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

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Eva Suchar and her father Daniel Suchar at the symposium
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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.