BCMB, English Double Major Earns Nation’s Most Coveted Science Scholarship


As if excelling with a double major in biochemistry, cell and molecular biology and English wasn’t rare enough, Bradley M. Wierbowski just became even more notable. The University of Scranton junior with the unique double major earned one of the nation’s most coveted honors in science, mathematics and engineering – the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship. He joins just 282 students from elite colleges from across the nation – including just three Jesuit universities – to be awarded a Goldwater Scholarship for the 2012-2013 academic year.

Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., and Creighton University, Omaha, Neb., each also had a student named as a Goldwater scholar.

A member of the University’s Honors Program, Wierbowski, Owego, N.Y., is the 10th University of Scranton student in the past decade to be named a Goldwater scholar, according to Mary Engel, Ph.D., director of health-professional school placement and fellowship programs at The University of Scranton.

Wierbowski’s talents in his second major of English had been recognized through his selection as Best Essay in the category of British literature for his paper “Feigned Superficiality as an Exposure of Actual Superficiality: Muffin-Eating in Wilde’s ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’” at the 2011 Sigma Tau Delta Convention. That same year, his research with Timothy Foley, Ph.D., professor of chemistry, contributed to an article “SNAP-25 Contains Non-Acylated Thiol Pairs that can Form Intrachain Disulfide Bonds: Possible Sites for Redox Modulation of Neurotransmission,” which was published in the journal Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology.

Wierbowski, who maintains a 4.0 GPA, enjoys the different “modes of thinking – creative and analytical” that his two majors offer, helping to keep him “mentally refreshed” for his daily coursework.

“Brad is a thoughtful, imaginative, and insightful reader, a crafty writer, and already a committed and unstinting teacher of his fellow students,” said Rebecca Beal, Ph.D., professor of English. “With all this, he has a self-deprecating manner and a delightfully quirky sense of humor. It says volumes that when I announced his award to other members of the English Honor Society, every face there lit up.”

He is equally impressive with his research in the sciences.

“Brad’s talents and enthusiasm for scientific research, his increasing mastery of advanced laboratory technique and theory, and his highly developed critical thinking skills provide him with a strong foundation on which to build a stellar career. But what makes him even all the more remarkable is his modesty and his generosity,” said Dr. Foley, who serves as the Goldwater Scholarship faculty advisor at Scranton.

For his honors thesis, Wierbowski is conducting ongoing research with Dr. Foley and George Gomez. Ph.D., associate professor of biology, that is investigating how proteins use sulfur atoms to sense and respond to changes in cellular environments and whether or not different types of cells may express different forms of sulfur at the cell surface. The work has implications both for cellular communication, or “signaling,” and possibly for the selective targeting of cancer cells by chemotherapeutic drugs.

For his future career, science will prevail. “Research poses problems whose solutions hold the potential to benefit people at the level of their personal health,” said Wierbowski, who plans to pursue a Ph.D. in cell biology. He will spend the summer of 2012 in the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship Program at Rockefeller University, New York, N.Y., which is a center for research and graduate education in biomedical sciences, chemistry, bioinformatics and physics.

Wierbowski is the recipient of the University’s full-tuition Presidential Scholarship. He is a two-time recipient of Scranton’s Frank O’Hara Medal, which recognizes students with the highest GPA during their first, second and third year in each of the University’s undergraduate and graduate colleges. This month, he received the E. Nelson James Junior Scholarship from Sigma Tau Delta, which is the only such scholarship awarded by the international English honor society each year.

He is a member of Alpha Lambda Delta (freshman honor society), Alpha Sigma Nu (Jesuit honor society), Sigma Tau Delta (English honor society) and Beta Beta Beta (biology honor society). He is the production manager for Esprit, the University’s literary magazine, and a member of the biochemistry club. He serves as a consultant in the Writing Center and as a chemistry tutor for the University’s Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence. Off campus, he has volunteered at Moses Taylor’s Hospital Elder Life Program.

Wierbowski, a National Merit Commended Scholar, was the valedictorian of his graduating class at Seton Catholic Central High School, Binghamton, N.Y.

He is the son of David J. and Judith A. Wierbowski, Owego, N.Y.

Wierbowski joins current student and 2011-2012 Goldwater Scholar Abbe Clark, a biochemistry, cell and molecular biology major from Southold, N.Y., and member of the class of 2012.

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