Awards, scholarships help biology majors pursue dreams


biology major scholarship recipients

SRU’s biology department awarded more than $22,000 to biology majors at its annual Natural Sciences and Mathematics Banquet April 19.

April 26, 2016

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Providing scholarships and grants to Slippery Rock University undergraduates helps them afford college and pursue research and career goals such as Amazon Rainforest preservation and children's medical care.

Consider Grascen Shidemantle, a biology major from Slippery Rock. She recently received the $500 George Smith Research Grant to research the effects of pesticide exposure on amphibians. As a career, she hopes to help protect the Amazon rainforest, including its wildlife.

"It is an honor to not only receive this monetary assistance, but to also be recognized for my hard work," she said. "As a college student, money is always a worry. It is nice to know that some of that pressure has been alleviated and I can now channel more of my energy into focusing on my academics."

The biology department presented more than $22,925 to biology majors at its annual Natural Sciences and Mathematics Banquet. Biology alumni, past and present biology professors contributed $17,500 through scholarships they support for biology majors. The College of Health, Environment and Science awarded $5,425 for biology majors to reach the $22,925 total.

At the banquet, Aaron Onufrak, a biology major from Butler, was named Outstanding Biology Senior. Brian Merritt, a biology major fro Kersey, was named the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania University Biologists Outstanding Student.

Biology major scholarship and award recipients are:

  • Kayli Roth of Lehighton, $500 Sophomore Biology Honors; $1,250 Christopher F. Cuff Scholarship; $1,250 Thomas John Scholarship; $400 Leucojum Award in Botany; $1,000 Coen Family Scholarship; $1,000 Lynn Erne Woman in Science Scholarship's
  • Grascen Shidemantle of Slippery Rock, 500 Sophomore Biology Honors Scholarship; $500 George Smith Research Grant; $1,000 Genevieve Tvrdik Scholarship;
  • Halie Britton of Greenville, $500 Achievement in Biology Scholarship;
  • Cassandra Holub of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, $500 Achievement in Biology Scholarship;
  • Erika Lapmardo, of Warren, $1,000 Biology Honors Scholarship;
  • Victoria Pasquale of Salt Point, New York, $500 William Ralston Scholarship;
  • Chloe Casteel of Dubois, $400 Family Campaign Scholarship;
  • Jennifer Bauer of Tionesta, $400 Leucojum Award in Botany; $225 Leadership in Science Scholarship; $1,500 Rhoda Evans Taylor Scholarship;
  • Elin Blanchard of Pittsburgh, $1,000 Beta Beta Beta Alumni Scholarship
  • LeAnn Penn of Conneaut Lake, $500 A.P. Vincent Scholarship
  • Amber Davidson of Leavittsburg, Ohio, $1,000 James Kell Scholarship
  • Redi Metali of Albania, $1,000 Sonam Ruit International Scholarship;
  • Aliya May of Pittsburgh, $1,200 Frank A. Pugliese "Rock" Scholarship; $1,200 Carolyn Steglich Endowed Scholarship; $400 William R. Sigmund PJAS Award
  • Rosemary Myers of Fairview, $1,000 Thomas W. Gaither Scholarship;
  • Victoria Lytwak of Greensburg, $1,000 Wayne L. Miller M.D. Scholarship
  • Emma Shychuck of Hookstown, $2,400 James Steel Scholarship;

Schidemantle said the biology curriculum is her favorite aspect of SRU.

"The professors are so passionate about what they do and that passion is contagious," she said. "I am always excited to go to class and I am anxious to learn more. Even though our curriculum and coursework is rigorous, I feel that our education is top notch and will allow me to be extremely competitive in my field.

Another advantage to our biology program here at SRU, is the opportunity to do undergraduate research, she said.

"These are opportunities that would not have been afforded to me at a large institution," she said. "I am incredibly excited to get started with my research project this summer so that I can get a taste of what it will be like to work in the field that I love so much."

She will be researching the effects of neonicotinoids (a class of pesticides) on amphibian development.

"Neonicotinoids have been in the news a lot lately because scientists are finding that they are connected to the decline in bee populations," she said. "So obviously, there have been a lot of studies about how these pesticides affect insects and other invertebrates. However, there are not many studies about how they affect amphibians."

Amber Davidson, a biology major from Warren, Ohio, received the $1,000 James Kell Scholarship.

Davidson said she started out in the biology program, then switched to business but that only lasted a month and she went right back to biology. She said she is extremely grateful for the scholarship.

"I just couldn't stay away from the biology major," she said. "The biology program here does a tremendous job at instilling work ethic. You can't get through it unless you are ready to work. I love the challenge that it brings. It keeps me very focused and busy.

Davidson said her dream is to work in a children's hospital as a physician assistant to a pediatrician.

I love children and live to help others in any way that I am able and can't wait for what the future holds," she said.

MEDIA CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine | 724.738.4854 |