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Gerald and Sally DeNardo Senior Prize in Science Research 2011

Established in 2007 to complement the Gerald and Sally DeNardo Lectureship, this prize is given by the Dean to recognize outstanding science research accomplishment by a graduating senior who reflects the distinctive characteristics of a Jesuit education and is pursuing a career in the health sciences.


The 2011 DeNardo Senior Prize is awarded to Nicholas Giustini. Nick was nominated by Steven Suljak, Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

Nick is a senior bioengineering major headed to medical school next fall. With a GPA of 3.9, it is clear he is an outstanding student.

Nick has done research in the Suljak laboratory since Fall 2009. In that time, he has helped to complete a major project in the laboratory: the selection of aptamers specific for a glycosylated variant of VEGF. This work was completed last June. Nick’s major contributions to this multi-year project (Chris Rose and Mike Hayes were lead authors) was running a series of significant controls that were included as important evidence in the final manuscript:

Since early summer, Nick’s efforts have focused on (1) the further characterization of selectivity of our identified aptamer sequences and (2) initiating a project applying our technique toward the protein thrombospondin-1.

Nick will be presenting his work (as lead author) as a poster at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society this March in Anaheim:

“Characterization of aptamer selectivity toward glycosylated VEGF peptide variants.”.

Steve notes that Nick did two summers of research at Dartmouth (2008, 2009), looking at utilizing iron oxide nanoparticles as a potential treatment for cancer. His PI gave him a strong review when Nick was asking to join the Suljak research group.

It is also clear that Nick “reflects the distinctive characteristics of a Jesuit education.” While at SCU, in addition to his academic scholastic efforts, Nick has played a number of important roles. He has been a CF at Casa for the past two year, tutored extensively in chemistry and writing (at the campus writing center), and was a member of the 2008-2009 Global Medical Brigades that traveled to Honduras to provide medical assistance in rural communities. He has also been active as an officer in the Pre-Health Club and has been serving as an O'Connor Ethics Intern for the past year.

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