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Biology: Alumni Profiles

Meet our Alumni

The University of Dayton’s atmosphere of service and family has aided Dr. Bill Billotte in his career in Washington D.C. where he manages the Counterterrorism and Response Technologies program at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Billotte graduated from UD in May 2002 with a Ph.D. in biology, focusing on cell biology. While at UD he was struck by the family-like atmosphere of the biology department. It was this, along with UD’s commitment to service that led him to a career in public service.

"The spirit of service to others and leading by example is at the forefront of my mind during these nine plus years since I graduated from UD," he said.

Since completing his Ph.D., Billotte has worked in Washington D.C. managing and supporting programs that research and test chemical, biological, radiation, nuclear and explosive countermeasure technologies. He arrived while the nation was recovering from the attacks of 9/11 and the anthrax scares. His work has focused on addressing the needs of homeland security - researching and developing standards and methods for emergency responders.

During his time at UD, he had two faculty advisors, the late Dr. P.K. Bajpai and Dr. Marie-Claude Hofmann. He said all of UD’s biology professors and staff have had an impact on him in their own special way. Dr. Bob Kearns and Dr. Albert Burky especially had an influence on him. They “really challenged and inspired me to persist through tough times and to always have a plan,” Billotte said.

He said the key strengths of UD were not just the teaching and research academics, but the people and family spirit of the university. He has not been able to find a comparable atmosphere at any of the other three universities that he has attended.

This family spirit helped him through many struggles, including the flooding of the research lab as well as the death of his first faculty advisor, Dr. Bajpai. These memories are paired with experiences seeing students learn and grow as he taught physiology labs and working as part of a close-knit research lab team. Billotte’s favorite memory though is "being part of a family who shared time and thoughts with each other," he said.

"The best way to describe UD during my time there was vibrant," said Billotte. "From the most senior Marianist to the youngest freshman, there was this spirit of living life and sharing it with everyone around them."


For Dr. Stephen Burky, the team learning setting he experienced at UD helped to set the stage for his career as a dedicated radiology physician.

After graduating from UD in 1997 with his B.A. in biology, Burky received his M.D. from The Ohio State University in 2001 and took a transitional position at Riverside Hospital in Columbus before starting his diagnostic radiology residency at Indiana University in 2002. He completed his residency in 2006. Burky says that the teamwork he learned at UD has been a large part of both his postgraduate education and professional positions.

Though many UD alumni experience collaborative learning environment and the development of close relationships with their professors, Burky’s experience with the UD biology department was especially unique - he was studying biology in a true family environment.

He identifies his father, current UD biology professor Dr. Albert Burky, as having the biggest impact on him throughout his time at UD. Burky also enjoyed close relationships with other members of the biology department faculty.

"I grew up knowing most of the biology professors well long before I attended UD," he said. "They were already like extended family when I started at UD." Burky recalls living and learning on campus with friends as part of the UD community as the best part of his college experience.

Upon the completion of his postgraduate education and residency, Burky decided to pursue a medical position within the United States Air Force.

"The most unique thing I have done since leaving UD is to work for the USAF," he said. "While my primary job was working as a radiology physician, I also led the radiology department. I was in charge of about 30 active duty military and civilian employees. In addition, my job included military exercises and training that were not related to medicine. I spent time learning marksmanship, chemical warfare and had to be prepared to deploy overseas at any time."

Burky finished his four-year military service in 2010 and went on to work as a radiologist at Radiology, Inc. in Columbus, where he still works today.


The University of Dayton’s mission "Learn, Lead and Serve" created an encouraging environment for UD alumnus Elizabeth Gazdick.

Gazdick graduated from UD in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in biology. She is currently working towards a master’s degree in global health and international development at Case Western Reserve University. She will graduate in May 2012. Gazdick has been extensively involved in several vector biology projects researching the mosquito vector that is responsible for the transmission of Dengue Fever. Her research on the Dengue Fever has allowed her to travel extensively and gain vital career experience.

"It has also allowed me to interact with several different health care entities, such as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, state, county, and local health departments, as well as international  ministries of  health," Gazdick said. "The work I have done thus far is interesting, challenging and gratifying. I look forward to continuing both my education and profession in the field of global health."
Gazdick’s time at UD helped spark her interest in global health as well as expanded her appetite for knowledge.

"The University of Dayton’s mission to 'Learn, Lead and Serve' has resonated with me throughout both my academic and professional career," she said.

Biology professor Dr. Eric Benbow had a strong impact on her while she attended UD. Gazdick conducted undergraduate research in Benbow's lab and said his passion for his job and research was inspiring. Benbow encouraged her to exceed her own expectations and to work towards excellence.

"Working and studying in the biology department was more like belonging to a family, an experience that I cherish and that has undoubtedly shaped the person I am in both my personal and professional life," she said.

Gazdick also received the first UD International Learn, Lead, Serve award. She described receiving the award as a great honor and one of her biggest accomplishments during her time at UD. The award provided funding for Gazdick to travel to Ghana where she was able to apply what she had learned in classrooms and labs in a more realistic setting. She was exposed to global heath for the first time and collaborated with other professionals in the field. Receiving the LLS award led her to where she is today.

"These experiences, provided through the LLS award inspired a passion for the study of global health that I am continuing to pursue," she said.


Dr. Savannah Hoying has enjoyed many unique experiences as a veterinarian since she graduated from UD in 2006. Hoying, who majored in biology and minored in psychology at UD, continued her education at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, where she received her doctorate in veterinary medicine in 2010.

Some highlights from Hoying's career include observing the Cincinnati Zoo veterinarian and watching a necropsy of a komodo dragon, and experiencing the challenges of emergency medicine as an emergency veterinarian at the Cincinnati Animal Referral and Emergency Center. Hoying adopted her second dog after treating its injuries in the ER clinic following a car accident.  "The dog's left rear leg required amputation and after performing this surgery, I took her home with me," said Hoying.

In her career, Hoying has also worked at Banfield, the Pet Hospital as a general practice veterinary assistant and at The Ohio State University Galbreath Equine Center as an equine ICU and emergency assistant. Currently, she works at the Suburban Veterinary Clinic in Centerville as a small animal general practitioner. Hoying also serves as a trustee for the Miami Valley Veterinary Medical Association (MVVMA) as administrator for the MVVMA website.  The goal is to reach out to the veterinary community through modern technology and social media. This group hosts continuing education courses and social events for local veterinarians and funds scholarships for local veterinary students and veterinary technician students.

During her time at UD, Hoying took advantage of the many organizations and activities offered by the university. She played club volleyball and participated in multiple intramural sports all four years, and was a member of both the biology fraternity Beta Beta Beta and premedical fraternity Alpha Epsilon Delta. Hoying says she formed many strong friendships and enjoyed meeting new people in UD activities, including her husband Mark, whom she met her first year at an intramural softball game on Founder's Field.

Hoying says that UD biology professor Dr. Robert Kearns had a strong academic and personal impact on her UD education. Kearns was her academic advisor at UD, and Hoying also performed research in his laboratory, where she gained valuable insight about the field of veterinary medicine.

"He was very personable and not only was a great mentor for my degree at UD, but drove me to become the professional I am now," she says. "He is one of the most difficult professors that I have encountered because he demands the best of his students. However, he is willing to work with his students to ensure that they are developing the knowledge necessary to succeed and has confidence in them. We are still great friends as he continues to teach me in many aspects of my life! I hope to be a role model for others and try to give back to the community the way that he helped me."


Since graduating from UD in 2003 a B.S. in biology and psychology, Ben Kolber earned a doctorate in neuroscience from Washington University in St. Louis in 2008. He also completed his post-doctoral research fellowship at Washington University in 2011. Though Kolber has moved on from Dayton, he considers UD an integral part of his career formation. Both in and out of the classroom, Kolber found the biology department to be influential in his life experiences.

"In general, I found all of the biology professors at UD to be incredibly accessible. Whether it was in-class questions or out of class problems, I was never turned away by anyone in the department," he said. "Kelly Williams was always interested in my experiences and offered honest and thoughtful advice when I began thinking about a career in the biomedical sciences. Carissa Krane provided me with an incredible opportunity to learn both the basic and advanced laboratory skills that I would later need to be successful in a research career. Her passion for undergraduate research has continued to influence me today as I have had the opportunity to mentor undergraduates."

Kolber enjoyed his UD experience and considers it to have been a great starting block for his scientific career. He is continuing his biomedical research as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, where he started in December 2011. He also serves as the Research and Education Coordinator for the university’s Chronic Pain Research Consortium.

"After graduating, the practical knowledge that I gained doing scientific research with Dr. Carissa Krane was most applicable," he said. "As I have transitioned into a faculty position myself, I now model my mentoring on how I saw individuals such as Dr. Krane, Dr. Kearns, and Dr. Williams interact with students in their labs. My exposure outside the lab to social justice issues has continued to mold and shape my perspective on the world and my responsibility toward society."

During his time in St. Louis, Kolber’s work focused on the endocrine system, stress and psychiatric illness. In his current position as a faculty member, Kolber’s passion for science is ever-present, especially while conducting research.

"One of the best parts about being a scientist is the real feeling of discovery that you encounter every day," he said. "Oftentimes, that discovery occurs after chance discussions with other scientists working at other universities and in industry. Interacting with individuals from across the world who have similar interests is exciting and stimulates new ideas for my own research. My research focus now is on the interaction between pain and stress. Specifically, we are interested in brain areas that are involved in the effects of stress on chronic pain. We use a variety of approaches to model and analyze brain areas involved in pain and stress. One of the newer techniques that we use is called optogenetics, which involves used light-activated ion channels to specifically activate neurons in only one part of the brain. Simultaneously, we can measure animal behavior or physiological changes to determine the role of a brain area in pain and stress."

In his journey from student to full-time scientist, Kolber acknowledges his time at UD as an important period that greatly contributed to his learning experience as a whole.

"UD was an incredible place to learn and grow up," he said. "One of the most important aspects to this experience that has continued to resonate with me is the breadth of knowledge that I was exposed to at UD. Whether it involved non-science classes in the humanities, service in the community or immersion trips abroad, the broad range of experiences and areas that I encountered at UD has allowed me to maintain a balanced perspective on my own work and the world around me."


While at UD, Chelsea Korfel caught the Marianist spirit and has integrated it into her life ever since.

Since graduating in 2006 with bachelors’ degrees in environmental biology and environmental geology, Korfel has moved on to The Ohio State University. She received a master’s from OSU in natural resources in 2007 and is now working on a doctorate in evolution, ecology and organismal biology. Though she has physically left UD, she strives to embody the character she found during her undergraduate years.

"I saw the Marianist spirit as an influence in the way my professors taught and interacted with students," Korfel said. "Since I left UD, I’ve realized that the biology department there has a really unique and amazing group of scientists who aren't afraid to let their religion guide them in the classroom. I am grateful for the balance of nurture and pushing me to my limits that these professors provided, and wouldn't be in graduate school today without it."

Korfel became a lay Marianist before leaving UD and hopes that commitment will continue to guide her in the future. At OSU, she is currently researching a critically endangered species of harlequin frog and the high altitude dynamics of chytridiomycosis, a fungal disease that is suspected to have impacted amphibian populations worldwide. Some of Korfel’s research has been done in Ecuador, where she worked with a Marianist brother, Giovanni Onore. She was introduced to Onore through Kelly Williams, a UD biology professor. Korfel also joined Williams for part of the Spring Breakout he led in March 2010.

"I met up with the group, and enjoyed a day of interacting with the students," she said. "I think it is amazing, and unique to UD, that a professor would continue to take interest in me and be willing to help my research project succeed even after I have graduated."


By the time he finished his undergraduate and postgraduate education at UD with a B.S. in biology in 2008 and an M.S. in biology in 2011, Andy Lewis was a published author in his field, had worked as a laboratory manager and research assistant, and received awards, grants and scholarships in recognition of his dedication to biology. Andy Lewis recalls his UD education as an enriching experience that helped to provide him with the skill set to succeed in his career as a scientist.

Andy attributes his work experiences as an undergraduate and graduate student at UD, particular courses offered at UD, and the connections he made on campus as all having a significant impact on his career path. As an undergraduate student, Andy worked with UD biology professor Brother Don Geiger to create management plans for the Greene County Park District for all of their parks and reserves. He also worked with one of UD biology faculty member Dr. Kelly Williams’ graduate students to collect salamander samples in Ohio and Indiana for genetic research. As a graduate student, Andy acted as a laboratory manager to mentor the undergraduate and graduate students in the lab with their projects, while also serving as one of the leads on the storm-water runoff research that the lab performed for the City of Dayton Water Department.

"The 'real world' experiences that I received through the jobs I held that helped train me for my career after graduating," Andy says. "At UD I made lasting friendships and connections that have aided me in finding work and succeeding in my field. The life experiences such as my Marine Biology class in Hawaii and Culture, Biodiversity, and Resource Management class in Costa Rica gave me unforgettable memories and opportunities."

UD biology professors also made significant contributions to Andy’s education, career, and personal life.

"There are many professors that helped shape my future," Andy says. "There were Dr. Don Geiger and Dr. Kelly Williams that gave me my first jobs in the biological research field where I realized that this was what I wanted to do the rest of my life. Dr. Mark Nielsen helped me plan and prepare for applying to graduate school. Drs. Carl Friese and Ryan McEwan were on my graduate committee and helped guide my research into something excellent. Dr. Eric Benbow was my graduate school advisor and gave me a chance to get my master’s. Lastly, Dr. Albert Burky let me help on the Costa Rica trip where I had the time of my life and proposed to my wife."

After graduating from UD, Andy began working as a lab technician and microbiologist for Advanced Testing Laboratory, where he now works as a genomic analyst. In his current job as an analyst, Andy serves as a molecular biologist for Advanced Testing Laboratory’s biotechnology group, where he studies RNA expression profiling.

Looking back on his college experience, one thing Andy learned still resonates with him.

"One of the most unique things that UD helped prepare me for is that science is an ever-changing field and you have to be ready to adapt with it or be left behind," he says.

A proud alumnus, Andy recognizes the value of his UD education and how it has helped shape his life and career into what they are today.

"I enjoyed the classes that I attended because all the teachers truly cared about what they taught and it showed," he says. "The chances to study abroad gave me opportunities to see places I never thought I would get to see and changed my life for the better every time. All the friends that I made as an undergraduate and graduate student that I still keep in contact today make my life that much richer."


Early in her UD career, 2013 graduate Amy Myers decided to pursue both her passions: biology and teaching. With strong mentorship from UD biology faculty and her personal ambition, she graduated with a dual degree in biology and adolescent to young adult integrated science education.

Myers currently teaches physical science, physics, and Advanced Placement physics at Piqua High School in Piqua, Ohio. Next year, she will teach both biology and an elective biology course on ecology and genetics that Myers developed. She also coordinated Piqua High School's first-ever science fair. Myers accredits her UD education with the sense of community she has integrated into her classroom.

"UD fostered a spirit of community and compassion in me, which has enhanced my first year of teaching greatly," Myers said. "I have modeled my classroom after the community environment at UD and encourage my students to be a community of learners in my room and the Piqua community ... I gained a breadth and depth of knowledge at UD in many subjects, which is very beneficial in teaching high school."

During her time at UD, Myers worked as a river steward for the Rivers Institute, where students, faculty and staff work with community members, stakeholders, and organizations to build community around local rivers. She also enjoyed her job in UD biology professor Dr. Ryan McEwan's ecology lab. Myers says that McEwan, Dr. Jayne Robinson, biology department chair, and Dr. Tom Williams, Myers' biology academic advisor, were instrumental in her academic success and pursuit of a dual degree. McEwan remains a mentor for Myers post-UD.

"Dr. McEwan presented material in a non-traditional way, and I admired his teaching skills as well as his focus on student success," Myers said. "As an undergrad in his lab, he always made it a priority to see that he was providing opportunities that would enhance my future career rather than his own. He still communicates with me now, and we aspire to connect his lab and my classroom in the future."

Myers plans to pursue a master’s degree in biology in the near future. She's excited to continue teaching in Piqua and further develop the science program.


A current student at the University of Notre Dame Law School, Kaitlin Moredock thinks her scientific background has helped her succeed in her postgraduate career.

Moredock graduated from the University of Dayton in 2008 with Bachelor of Science degrees in biology and psychology. Some of the lessons she learned at UD were instrumental in guiding her choice to go on to law school.

"My research in the biology department required that I think about a number of possible outcomes and test my hypotheses in a systematic way. This approach has worked well in my experiences in criminal law and litigation," Moredock said. "The idea that permeated UD that your career is your vocation rather than just a job has resonated with me and guided my career choices."

While at Notre Dame, she has been named Executive Managing Editor of the Notre Dame Law Review, and has been published in the review. Moredock has been placed on the Dean's list for three consecutive semesters and will be working as an associate at a Cincinnati law firm this summer.

Moredock said that her undergraduate studies in the science field have helped her in criminal cases to understand evidence, such as autopsy reports. Moredock also gives credit for her success to professors in the biology department, such as Carissa Krane and Robert Kearns.

"So many of the biology [faculty] made my time at UD enjoyable and helped me figure out what I was called to do," she said. "It was evident that these professors cared about the students as people and wanted us to succeed.  That type of learning environment was so beneficial and gave me the confidence that I needed in order to achieve my goals."


The field of biology is one that offers many different career paths, including a few that many people would not expect. For Shannon (Stewart) Mueller, a 2007 UD graduate, her success at a Dayton-area engineering firm has proven how many diverse careers are available to biologists.

Mueller graduated with a bachelor’s in biology with a concentration in environmental biology. Since then, she has worked at LJB, Inc., a Kettering-based engineering and environmental consulting firm. There, she is one of two biologists employed and some of her responsibilities include stream monitoring, wetland delineations, stream and wetland mitigations and Ohio Department of Transportation ecological surveys.

"I find my job challenging and a good balance between helping to educate my clients and the public about the importance of natural resources, particularly wetlands and streams," Mueller said. "We are in the process of designing a wetland mitigation site in a nature conservation area that Five Rivers MetroParks recently acquired. Figuring out the soils and hydrology of the area is quite fascinating."

Mueller first discovered her love for ecology at UD, working with biology professors Bro. Don Geiger and Dr. Kelly Williams. While an undergraduate, she worked in the field at Greene County Park District creating a habitat management and restoration plan with Geiger. His extensive knowledge of the plant life in the area encouraged her to continue to pursue a career path in the ecology field. In the classroom, Williams inspired Mueller through his passion for the subject of ecology.

"Dr. Geiger and Dr. Williams really taught me the how apply the things learned in the classroom to the field," she said. "It is incredibly interesting to me to try to understand the study of the relationships between living organisms and their interactions with their natural and developing environment. It is especially fascinating when you involve invasive species or habitat alteration through development. The intricate webs of life will always be fascinating to me because there are so many."


The University of Dayton’s mantra of "Lead, Learn, Serve" is one that is repeated to its students many times during their time as undergraduates. The university hopes the message will guide students in both their current and future endeavors. For UD alumnus Dr. Mark Rastetter, “Learn, Lead, Serve” has become an integral part of his life.

Rastetter, who graduated from UD in 2002 with dual degrees in biology and religious studies, received his medical degree from Loyola University Chicago in 2006. While in medical school, he became involved with Physicians for Human Rights and began clinical work with underserved populations. Since finishing his residency in Family Medicine in 2009, Rastetter is now completing a fellowship in Maternal-Child Health that combines additional training in obstetrics and pediatric care. This fellowship allows Rastetter to continue to help the marginalized and poor, something he found a desire to do while still in Dayton.

"As a student at UD and then at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, I sought the type of education that would allow me to lead and serve effectively. I have always tried to use my skills to create a preferential option for the poor, a tenant of liberation theology and one I learned while at UD," he said.

"The education model that I experienced as a biology and religious studies major at UD, I feel pushes students to work hard and focus, but allows it to happen within a supportive community of students, faculty and staff…I sought that sort of model in my medical education and continue to seek it in the work that I do in my professional career."

Rastetter has also dedicated his time and skills through medical relief work in communities in Africa, South and Central America and the Caribbean. Most recently, he worked in Malawi, Africa in March 2010 to help serve the mother and child population of the area. In January 2010 he traveled to Haiti, a country he first visited while as a UD student participating in a cultural and service immersion program, to assist victims of the 2009 earthquake.

Rastetter still considers the experiences he had at UD as an undergraduate to be defining moments in his career, and named Carissa Krane as a key mentor.

"I remember not only extensive discussions about my research projects, but also about ethics, human rights and becoming a physician," he said. "Dr. Krane continually encouraged me to explore the reasons I wanted to enter medical school and challenged me in my essays and personal statement. Looking back…those conversations proved to be some of the most important of my career."

Besides undertaking his fellowship and work abroad, Rastetter is also a clinical instructor in the family medicine department at Northwestern University, a position that also furthers his vocation to assist the impoverished.

"In this role, I have had the opportunity to work with medical students and have been involved in the creation of a new family medicine residency through Northwestern dedicated to the underserved," he said.


Current Environment Protection Specialist and 2008 University of Dayton graduate Kelly Wedell greatly benefited from relationships forged with professors while at UD. Wedell graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Environmental Biology and received a Master's degree in Public Affairs from Indiana University. She now works for the Pollution Prevention Division of the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C.

She has been able to combine her Environmental Biology degree with her policy background to help make industry more sustainable. She currently works on several projects at the EPA with others who are just as enthusiastic as she is about environmental sustainability.

"I am surrounded by some of the most passionate people in the environmental field on a daily basis, each working so hard to make society just a little bit better for coming generations," Wedell said.
During Wedell’s time at UD she was active with UD’s chapter of AED, a health pre-professional honor society, and TriBeta, a national biological honor society.  

"I loved being involved in AED and TriBeta; I met some of my best friends in those programs, while also learning more about potential career fields," she said.

She also took advantage of UD’s emphasis on service opportunities to give back to the community. Christmas on Campus was a particular favorite. She said she did not realize what a unique atmosphere of service existed at UD until she graduated and now tries to carry on this spirit in her current life.

"I was always amazed at the amount of service students and staff at UD participated in; there seemed to be an unending desire to give back," she said.

Wedell worked as a teaching assistant for Dr. Carl Friese who she described as a phenomenal mentor. She attributes her current career path to his encouragement and influence. He encouraged her to make the most of her time at UD and become involved in groups such as TriBeta.

"He only wanted the best for me, and made sure I put myself in the right position to obtain just that," she said. "I don’t think my college experience would have been nearly as rich without him."

Dr. Robert Kearns was another professor who has impacted Wedell’s life. Kearns pushed her to do her best academically.

"He holds his students to a higher stand, and in turn, I think I learned to hold myself to a higher standard," Wedell said.

The personal attention and encouragement that UD biology professors give to their students is something Wedell is grateful for and remembers fondly.

"One of my favorite things about the University of Dayton were the relationships I was able to develop with my professors, specifically Dr. Friese and Dr. Kearns," she said.


CONTACT

Department of Biology

Science Center
300 College Park
Dayton, Ohio 45469 - 2320
937-229-2521
Email