Presents at cell biology gathering

June 27th, 2015 1:18 am

First Posted: 1/6/2013

Those in scientific research know that it takes a special mind-set and personality to persevere through hundreds of studies and hours of painstaking experiments to reach an answer to one particular hypothesis.

Likening it to solving a large jigsaw puzzle, each new answer makes up a piece of a complex puzzle, and the process repeats itself as answers are uncovered around the world.

It is a love of that challenge that has drawn Misericordia senior Danielle Monelli Yurko '06,'13, a 1999 graduate of Pittston Area High School, toward a career in biochemistry research.

The 30-year-old, who is expecting twins in July, is also just months away from finishing her second undergraduate degree at Misericordia.

Her perseverance and dedication to her new field have already brought her honors.

Born in Duryea, Yurko is the first Misericordia student to present at an annual meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB), the largest gathering of experts in that particular field of science.

The 52nd annual ASCB meeting was held in San Francisco, Calif., in December and drew more than 6,000 participants, including esteemed researchers from around the world.

Accompanied to San Francisco by her research mentor Angela Asirvatham, Ph.D., associate professor of biology, Yurko was one of 300 scientists to present at the undergraduate session and one of 3,000 presenters at the graduate, postdoctoral and faculty level.

Dr. Asirvatham also presented at the event, as she has for the past seven years.

The research the pair is doing is ultimately dedicated to finding a faster way to repair nerve cells damaged by spinal cord injury and multiple sclerosis.

By finding a way to speed up the growth rate of Schwann cells, the scientists hope to find ways to make neurons regenerate faster and ultimately create new nerve paths that will speed up the recovery process.

The tests are being done on rat Schwann cells in collaboration with Dr. David J. Carey's lab in the Sigfried and Janet Weis Center for Research at Geisinger Medical Center, Danville.

Danielle is extremely hard working, and would be an asset in any field. Yet, she has shown the inquisitiveness, perseverance and patience required to do the often mundane and repetitive tasks that are a part of scientific research, Dr. Asirvatham said.

Not every day is a ‘Eureka!' day in science, and the research that we are doing is one tiny, tiny part of a much bigger puzzle. It may take dozens of people around the globe years of work before we find the answers we seek.

Yurko admits her career path has been much like a science experiment, full of stops and starts and changed directions.

She earned her first undergraduate degree in communications at Misericordia in 2006 as a non-traditional student, taking classes at night and on weekends while working full time.

An interest in medicine and health care – and in particular the new physician assistant program – drew her back to campus in 2009.

Yet, it was in her first organic chemistry class where she found a passion for lab experimentation.

Her interest in medical research led her to Dr. Asirvatham, whose doctoral research involved autoimmune disease. The two have been working on this one particular portion of Schwann cell research since January 2012.

Yurko's poster presentation, The Expression between Expression of A-Kinase Anchoring Protein and Phosphorylation of AKT/PBK in Neonatal Rat Schwann Cell Proliferation, was co-authored by Dr. Asirvatham, with Richard Stahl, a senior scientist, and Dr. David .J. Carey, director, both of the Sigfried and Janet Weis Center for Research.

It was well received.

This was a really great honor for a Misericordia student to have the opportunity to interact with students and faculty from much larger programs and career researchers from around the world at the ASCB meeting, said Dr. Asirvatham.

This experience will be key as Danielle is evaluated by graduate schools.

Yurko hopes to earn a Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular genetics and plans a career in biomedical research specializing in autoimmune and multi-drug resistant diseases.

I have found a way I can help people. It took me a while, but I now know it is what I want to do, added Yurko, the daughter of Diane McKinney of Mountain Top, and Ronnie Monelli of Old Forge.

Elizabeth Scatena Receives White Coat

Elizabeth Scatena received her White Coat in the Transition Ceremony held at New York Chiropractic College, Senaca Falls, New York.

She received one of three scholarships that were awarded during the ceremony.

She graduated from Penn State University in 2010.

Elizabeth is the daughter of Rosaleen Scatena, Pittston Township, and Bob Scatena, Hughestown.

She has two brothers Rob and Danny.

Happy birthday

Happy birthday wishes go to Joe Lizza of Pittston, celebrating Jan. 9; Pat Lizza of Exeter celebrating Jan. 10; Dr. Charles Gorey, Hughestown, celebrating Jan. 10; Hughestown Councilwoman Marie Griglock, celebrating Jan. 11; and Sherri Dougherty, West Pittston, celebrating on Jan 12.

Dorothy Strubeck, Hughestown, celebrated her birthday on Jan. 3.