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Senior Prize

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.

2021 Gerald and Sally DeNardo Senior Prize for Science Research

Christian Jimenez, 2019 DeNardo Science Scholar

Christian Jimenez headshot

Biochemistry major 
Amelia Fuller, Chemistry & Biochemistry, Faculty Mentor

A Biochemistry major with a 3.8 GPA, Christian has worked in Professor Amelia Fuller’s lab in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry for 3 years. In that time, he has co-authored 3 papers on the structure and function of peptoids that have been published in peer-reviewed journals. Peptoids are modified amino acid polymers with many potential uses in medicinal chemistry. According to Dr. Fuller, Christian has not only generated enormous amounts of data in the lab, he has also pioneered new approaches to data analysis, showing extraordinary organization and initiative, “He has been truly dogged in his pursuit of learning and he’s generated from scratch a whole new tool kit for our lab to use. I really cannot overstate the value of this. Further, his work here has highlighted to me his superior drive and initiative; this level of self-motivation and creativity is a truly rare quality in undergraduate student researchers.” He has served as a lab mentor and a chemistry tutor. He serves as an EMT on campus, and received a Jean Donovan Fellowship to work in a clinic in Cuzco, Peru. After graduation, he will be working in an immunology lab at UCSF for 2 years, before applying to medical school.

Natalie Rovero

Natalie Rovero headshot

Neuroscience and Psychology double major
Lindsay Halladay, Psychology/Neuroscience, Faculty Mentor

A Neuroscience and Psychology double major with a 3.8 GPA, Natalie has worked in Professor Lindsay Halladay’s lab in the Neuroscience Program for more than 2 years, where she has co-authored 3 papers on the effects of developmental trauma on a specific region of the mouse brain – the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, a part of the amygdala – that acts as a hub of reward and aversion integration, and is associated with alcohol seeking behavior, social behavior, and fear responses. According to Dr. Halladay, “I have taught many brilliant and intellectually curious students, mentored enthusiastic research assistants on trajectory toward success in the health sciences, and encountered passionate undergraduates embodying the distinctive characteristics of a Jesuit education. But it is only in rare instances that I have found each of these qualities in one individual. Natalie Rovero is one such remarkable person, rising above her peers in intellectual ability, scientific curiosity and accomplishments, and aspirations to translate her experiences as a researcher and crisis counselor into a career in clinical psychology.”

Riley Scherr, 2019 DeNardo Science Scholar

Riley Scherr headshot

Anthropology and Biology double major
SCU Johnson Scholar
Michelle Bezanson, Dr. Robin Nelson, Faculty Mentors

An Anthropology and Biology double major with a 4.0 GPA, Riley has worked with Professors Michelle Bezanson and Robin Nelson in the Department of Anthropology since 2018, when he participated in Dr. Bezanson’s summer research course on primate behavioral ecology in Costa Rica. Since being named a DeNardo Science Scholar in 2019, Riley has been the lead investigator on a research project focused on livelihoods and healthcare access of agricultural workers in the Central Valley. He is the lead author on a manuscript entitled “Asked too much, given too little: health risks and responsibilities of agricultural fieldworkers on California’s Central Coast” currently under consideration at American Anthropologist, and is working on a second manuscript based on this work. Dr. Bezanson notes, “It is a testament to the strength of this research project, Riley's incredible work ethic, and his keen ability to apply anthropological theory to the lived of experiences of his study participants that he was able to design a project, execute a project, and write a manuscript worthy of this highly- esteemed journal.” Riley is currently the Assistant Director of the EMT squad at SCU, and works in the COVID testing center on campus. He will be pursuing medical school after graduation.