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Undergraduate Programs

Meet our Spring Student Marshals:
Shay Toner

Image of Shay Toner

The Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology is proud to recognize Shay Toner as a Student Marshal for the 2022 Spring Commencement! Shay is a graduate of North Penn-Mansfeild High School in Mansfield, Pennsylvania.  He is a Microbiology major and has earned his spot on the Dean’s list a remarkable 8 times throughout his undergraduate career.


Shay’s future shines bright as he has been accepted into the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Ph.D. program for Microbiology.  He will begin his work at MIT in the fall of 2022.


Congratulations Shay on being named a Spring 2022 Student Marshal, and also for serving as a wonderful of example of why We Are Penn State!


Read more, below, about Shay’s remarkable undergraduate career.

I was honored to find out I would be the Student Marshal for microbiology. I have always done my best to perform, even when things were hard, I have always prided myself on getting results. This is just the beginning of my plans for life, and I hope that I can make the college proud in the future.
Shay Toner
Spring 2022 Student Marshal

Commencement Faculty Escort:

  • Joyce Jose
  • Anoop Narayanan


What impact has working with Dr. Joyce Jose has on your undergraduate career, and your future career specifically?

Dr. Jose has been a fantastic mentor for me, she has managed to teach me a great deal about virology and the techniques involved in its study while still allowing me the intellectual freedom to participate in experimental design and determine how I want to approach scientific problems. Under her leadership, I have received both excellent training and the independence required to hone my own ability to formulate a hypothesis and develop my own experiments. Dr. Jose has always been there to guide me, but she has always considered my input and allowed me to operate with a considerable amount of autonomy, and I cannot recommend the Jose lab enough to students who are serious about virology or molecular biology as a whole.


What is the most important lesson/memory/observation that you will take with you from your time at Penn State? 

Take time to relax, but do not confuse a moment of rest for a lifetime of complacency. Be sure to take care of yourself and your personal life, but never allow yourself to fall too far to recover. If you have a dream, it will require sacrifice to achieve. You may not always be in a good headspace, you may not always feel motivated enough to get up in the morning. Mental health is important, but you have to realize that discipline is the ability to do something even when you do not feel like it, and discipline is far stronger than motivation. Sometimes discipline is forcing yourself to work even when you are tired, even after a rough breakup or a death in the family. Sometimes that is what it takes to win. With that being said, you have got to love what you do. I meet too many students who are in a major they hate because of someone else’s expectations. If you are an engineer who wants to do art, then don’t force yourself to keep going. Do art, do philosophy, do what makes you happy. Discipline is very important for overcoming the hard days, but passion is important to make the hard days worth overcoming.


Undergraduate Honors and Awards, Extracurricular Activities, and Honorary Society Memberships: 

  • Presidents sparks award (2020)
  • Presidents Freshman ward (2019) SURF award (2021)
  • Fencing
  • The Society of Toxicology


In what laboratory did you conduct your research?

  • Dr. Joyce Jose

What was your research topic, and can you describe for our audience your research activities?

I studied the differences in Flavivirus NS1 phenotype between flavivirus species. I have worked with dengue, deer tick, West Nile, and Zika virus NS1 in order to compare their phenotypes upon expression in host cells. I have observed differences between how each flavivirus NS1 impacts the host cell it is expressed in, even though these proteins are very similar in sequence. These differences in behavior may be partially responsible for some of the different abilities of each flavivirus, such as Zika’s ability to cross the placental barrier and infect a developing fetus.