The Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department is proud to be called home to some of the most outstanding undergraduate students in higher education. These students display a high level of dedication, not only in furthering their education but in their desire to be on the frontlines of scientific discovery.
Meet Tatiana McAnulty, a rising Senior, from Indiana, Pennsylvania, majoring in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, with a minor in Neuroscience. Tatiana has always had a natural curiosity. Her love of science comes from its ability to explain the “how” and “why” behind the world’s phenomena, while also inspiring an infinite list of new questions to consider. As a student at Indiana Area Senior High School, Tatiana took an AP Biology class, taught by Mr. William Waryck. It was this class, that enabled her to explore her interests in the biological aspects of life. As part of the class, Mr. Waryck assigned each student a project, with Tatiana’s project focusing on cancer. Her work on the project, as well as Mr. Waryck, helped introduce Tatiana to biochemistry, molecular biology, and neuroscience, and inspired her to pursue her goal of becoming a neuro-oncologist in the future.
As the daughter of a Penn State Alumnus, Tatiana grew up visiting the University Park Campus and dreamt of one day attending Penn State. Although she had always dreamt of becoming a Penn State student, it was the University’s academic rigor, the opportunity to be part of the Schreyer Honors College, and Penn State’s endless list of opportunities and experiences that confirmed her belief that Penn State was where she was meant to be. “The large, diverse student body and chance to learn from and collaborate with thousands of other undergraduates also supported my decision to attend Penn State,” says Tatiana.
Currently, Tatiana is an undergraduate researcher working under the guidance of Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Associate Department Head for Graduate Education, Kenneth Keiler. The Keiler Laboratory’s mission is to understand how protein quality control is maintained during stress responses and homeostasis by trans-translation and alternative pathways. Tatiana’s research within the laboratory focuses on the use of natural products, obtained from the University of Hawaii and extracted from fungi and marine plant life, as a potential source of antimicrobial and chemotherapeutic agents. Utilizing assays to treat cancer cells with a range of concentrated levels of these products and assessing their viability to reduce cancer cell growth, her most recent research has sought to discover new chemotherapeutic agents.
During the summer of 2019, Tatiana participated in the Summer Neuroscience Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SNURF) Program offered through the University of Vermont. Over the course of the ten-week fellowship, she worked in the laboratory of Assistant Professor of Neurological Sciences, James Stafford, studying treatments for pediatric cancer. “Not only did this experience teach me how to begin developing my own research questions, but it also gave me greater confidence in my abilities as a scientist,” said Tatiana. In addition to her work in the laboratory, Tatiana was also able to shadow neuro-oncologists within a clinical setting, allowing her to receive firsthand experience from practicing physicians. Tatiana was again provided the opportunity to work with James Stafford during the summer of 2020 to investigate novel cancer treatments utilizing compounds sent from Penn State.
In addition to her experiences as an undergraduate researcher, and her work with James Stafford, Tatiana also serves as a Teaching Assistant (TA) for the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department. During the fall semester of 2019 she worked with Assistant Teaching Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Shawn Xiong, in teaching both Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 205 and 294. This past spring, she assisted Postdoctoral Fellow, Kristen Guckes, in teaching Microbiology 203. “I enjoy being a Teaching Assistant because I find it rewarding to work closely with students and help them develop their understanding of and interest in science,” says Tatiana.
Outside of the laboratory and classroom, Tatiana enjoys spending her time volunteering and pursuing her love of dance. While attending New Student Orientation (NSO) she was shown a promotional video highlighting Penn State Homecoming’s First Year Involvement Committee and decided to join. Tatiana loves having the ability to be involved in Penn State Homecoming's efforts to celebrate Penn State’s traditions and pride, and says that she is fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet and work alongside a wonderful and ambitious group of individuals. Since joining, she has served as the Liaison Captain for Donor Relations, the Inter-Committee Liaison Captain for Alumni Relations, and the Best of Penn State Homecoming Captain for Pride Events. “Being part of Penn State Homecoming has allowed me to make an impact on the Penn State community,” says Tatiana. “Homecoming is a celebration that can be enjoyed by and celebrated by people of all ages, and I am honored to have the chance to have a role in making it a reality each year.”
During the summer of 2018, Tatiana volunteered for the Child Life Department at UPMC’s Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. The Child Life Department provides developmental, educational, social and emotional support to children of all ages ranging from birth to young adulthood, and strives to help patients and families understand and cope with their hospital stay and overall health care experience. Through this experience she learned how amazing children can be, saying “Despite the fact that the kids were in a hospital and facing difficult conditions, they were some of the happiest children that I have interacted with. The positivity that I saw in these children will never cease to amaze and inspire me.” This not only impacted her perspective on life, but also impacted her aspirations in the future. “When I began working with the Child Life Department, I knew that I wanted to enter the medical field as a neuro-oncologist; however, I was not sure whether I would be interested in taking the pediatric route,” said Tatiana. “Through this experience working with children in a hospital setting, I began considering the pediatric route.”
Dance has always been a large part of Tatiana’s life, taking lessons from the age of three and continuing up through her graduation from high school. “I knew that I wanted to have the chance to continue dancing when I arrived at Penn State,” said Tatiana. She found that opportunity in the Penn State Ballet Club, Volé, a student-run dance organization on the University Park Campus consisting of over 200 members. The group maintains ballet as its base for proper technique but performs all styles of dance. Tatiana enjoys dancing because of how it lets her express herself and its ability to relieve stress. “In regards to Volé, I am grateful to have the chance to continue to use dance as a break from my studies,” says Tatiana. Although her busy schedule doesn’t always afford her the opportunity to perform in Volé’s showcases, she always looks forward to attending technique classes offered each week.
After graduating from Penn State, Tatiana plans to attend medical school and earn her medical degree as well as her Master of Science degree in Clinical Research. “With my degree, I would like to work as a neuro-oncologist to diagnose and treat cancers of the central nervous system,” says Tatiana. Her goal is to combine her desire to help patients with her background in research so that she can contribute to the fight against cancer and improve the lives of her patients and their families.