Anyone who thinks research science is still a man's game hasn't met Duquesne University's Raegen Esenwein and Lindsay Moskal.
The two juniors recently received the prestigious Goldwater Scholarships, given annually to encourage outstanding students to pursue research careers in the fields of natural sciences, engineering and mathematics. With this recognition, Duquesne now has eight female students who have won the award in the last 10 years.
Esenwein and Moskal will tell you one reason for their success is the personal relationships they have developed with professors and classmates during their time at the university's Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences.
"I was a scared freshman when I joined my first lab," Esenwein said. "But once I started working with Professor (Jill) Dembowski, I really got into the research and saw all the opportunities in front of me. She has helped me grow a lot and think more about my career choices."
Moskal, who is majoring in chemistry and math, said the school's small class sizes attracted her to Duquesne.
"It was important to me to develop meaningful relationships with my professors and classmates," she said. "Professor (Jeff) Evanseck has been incredibly supportive by continually encouraging me to apply for scholarships, including the Goldwater, to present at research conferences, and to think more deeply about my research."
The school looks to expand student horizons by offering a range of research subjects, and both Esenwein and Moskal noted that entering the lab early in their academic careers presented them with unique opportunities.
Esenwein, who is majoring in biology, has been studying the role of proteins in spreading the Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1, which causes cold sores and may lead to more serious illnesses.
"There is still a lot unknown about this virus," she said. "By researching how the virus spreads, we can learn more about it and hopefully find better treatment options."
Moskal's research focuses on organic molecules, which gained increased attention as the subject of the 2021 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. The use of organocatalysis could make a real impact on the pharmaceutical and manufacturing industries, she said. "By innovating and developing novel catalysts that are based on organic molecules, we will increase our options to making products more economically and more environmentally friendly," Moskal said.
Both students note that receiving the Goldwater Scholarship will play an important role as they move forward with their careers.
"The Goldwater is really a confirmation of all the work I've done," said Esenwein, who plans to go to graduate school. "It forced me to step back and look at the challenges and successes I've had in the lab. I'm ready for my next path."
"It's an incredible honor. I'm humbled and overwhelmed by it," said Moskal, whose career goals include graduate school and eventually teaching. "As a female STEM major, there are barriers women face in the sciences. I hope receiving this scholarship will allow other female students to see they can do the same."
Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities
for its award-winning faculty and horizon-expanding education. A campus of nearly
8,500 graduate and undergraduate students, Duquesne prepares students by having them
work alongside faculty to discover and reach their goals. The University's academic
programs, community service, and commitment to equity and opportunity in the Pittsburgh
region have earned national acclaim.
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