Ewa Szmanska | Presenting original research at a major scientific conference
Out of the 30 biology students in the U.S. named undergraduate research fellows by the American Society of Microbiology (ASM) in 2007, only 16 were selected to give oral presentations at the organization’s annual conference. Two of these are students at UC – the only institution honored by more than one such invitation.
One of the chosen, Ewa Szymanska ’08, has been working in U.C. biology professor Larry Aaronson’s lab since she was a high school sophomore, often tending her experiments far beyond the limits of the normal academic day. “Once I forgot to tell Campus Safety that I was going to be working here in the middle of the night,” she recalls. “They hought I was trying to break in. It was very funny, though not at that moment.”
“I met Ewa at the Utica College Regional Science Fair when she was in ninth grade, and saw the wonderful work that she had done on a very simple project,” says Aaronson. “She really sold it. It was clear that this young student had a real commitment to science and real fire for learning and investigation.”
At this point in her young life, Ewa, whose family was of very modest means, imagined she would finish high school and learn some marketable trade, perhaps become a hairdresser. Her horizons broadened considerably when she began her work with Aaronson under the aegis of UC’s Young Scholars Liberty Partnerships Program. By the end of her senior year in high school, she had already presented research on a national level.
Now a full-time biology student at UC, Ewa is preparing for a career as a biomedical researcher.
“She’s an extraordinary student,” Aaronson says, an assessment confirmed in substantial measure by the consecutive ASM fellowships her research has garnered. And yet, without basic scholarship support as a Young Scholar, Ewa’s talents may never have found their way to the surface.
Those early years in Aaronson’s lab helped make her a prime prospect for undergraduate biology programs. “Ewa could have gone anywhere, and she was pretty heavily recruited,” says Aaronson. “So I’m actually quite honored that she chose Utica College.”
From Ewa’s perspective, it wasn’t a difficult decision.
“When I came here from Poland, it was just my mother and I,” Ewa says. “I didn’t have a family. But at UC, my professors, my advisers, and my fellow students have become my family. This is a place where I feel I belong.”