SJU Student Awarded Barry Goldwater Scholarship

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

by Brianna Willard '13

PHILADELPHIA (April 30, 2013) — Shannon Spencer, a junior biology major/ chemistry minor from Swarthmore, Pa., has been named a 2013 Barry Goldwater Scholar. Established by Congress in 1986 to honor the late Senator Barry M. Goldwater, the program provides scholarships for up to $7,500 to distinguished undergraduate students majoring in science, mathematics and engineering. Each year, as many as 300 students from 50 states receive the scholarship, which is the premier undergraduate award of its type.

After graduating from Saint Joseph’s next year, Spencer plans to pursue an M.D./Ph.D. In addition to pursuing a career as a physician, Spencer has a strong interest in molecular biology research, which was sparked by her grandfather’s battle with cancer and eventual death from age-related illness. “My grandfather’s struggle inspired my desire to study the role of protein regulation in the processes of natural aging and cancer,” Spencer says. “As a physician, I will continue this research, which will have applications for treating cancer and age-related illnesses.”

Spencer has been a Summer Scholar and undergraduate research associate for the past three years in the laboratory of Julia Lee-Soety, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology, researching the role of RNA-processing proteins in telomere maintenance in baker’s yeast. Telomeres, the protective ends of chromosomes, shorten over time in many human cells and play a role in the aging process. Spencer will conclude her undergraduate research during the next academic year with a departmental honors thesis.

“I am thrilled that Shannon has been awarded the Barry Goldwater Scholarship,” Lee-Soety says. “It will be fantastic if she pursues a combined M.D. and Ph.D. and maintains her passion for basic science or clinical research.”

Spencer is grateful to Lee-Soety for giving her the opportunity to hone her research skills.

“Dr. Lee-Soety’s mentorship, as well as the support of all the biology professors at Saint Joseph’s, has been essential to my success,” Spencer says.

As a member of the Phage Safari class during her freshman year, Spencer presented the class’s genetically annotated bacteriophage BPBeibs31 to an audience of more than 300 scientists and students at the National Science Education Alliance Symposium held at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Ashburn, Va.

An SJU Presidential Scholar, Spencer has served as a weekly service volunteer at St. Luke’s Catholic Medical Services in Camden, N.J. She has also participated in the Appalachian Experience. Spencer is a member of Alpha Epsilon Delta, the Premedical Honor Society, and the American Institute of Biological Sciences.

Media Contact

Patricia Allen, Senior Associate Director of University Communications, 610-660-3240,


As Philadelphia's Jesuit, Catholic University, founded by the Society of Jesus in 1851, Saint Joseph's University provides a rigorous, student-centered education rooted in the liberal arts. SJU ranks as a top university in the Northeast, with a Phi Beta Kappa chapter in the College of Arts and Sciences and AACSB accreditation of the  Erivan K. Haub School of Business. The University is also deeply committed to the Jesuit tradition of scholarship and service, earning a place on the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll and the community engagement classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. With courses offered on campus and online, SJU prepares its more than 8,000 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students to lead lives of personal excellence, professional success and engaged citizenship.


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