Seton Hall biochemistry student awarded Celgene Scholarship

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — Marta Suazo has received the Sol J. Barer Scholarship in Life Sciences from Celgene, a global biopharmaceutical company headquartered in Summit.

The scholarship is named for the co-founder of Celgene and is intended “to assist high achieving students attending New Jersey’s independent colleges and universities to prepare for careers in the life sciences.” The competitive scholarship is awarded to rising undergraduate juniors or seniors; selection is based on academic merit and career potential.

The scholarship is not the first time Suazo, a biochemistry major and Italian minor who is set to graduate from Seton Hall in 2019, has been recognized as a high achiever with career potential. In 2017 she also received an Independent College Fund of New Jersey Undergraduate Research Symposium Grant for her work on paramagnetic photosensitizers. Earlier in 2018, she received a Clare Boothe Luce Summer Research Fellowship.

Working alongside Ph.D. candidate Marius Pelmus in professor Sergiu Gorun’s laboratory, Suazo and her undergraduate lab mates, Christopher Colomier ’18, senior Olivia Xiao and Ralph Foglia ’18, partnered to solve contemporary chemistry problems, ranging from the fundamental science of the activation of oxygen using metal-organic molecules containing no C-H bonds, to harnessing solar energy for chemistry and biomedical applications and working to solve a number of environmental issues using “green chemistry.”

The students’ contributions have not been limited to producing research results, however, as their work extended to writing grant applications and manuscripts, as well as reporting results at major scientific conferences.

“At Seton Hall, we favor the learn-by-doing approach,” Gorun said. “Our labs are hands-on and our students are given the opportunity to take the lead. As scientists, they will be expected to produce results, write about them for publication and potential funding, and present them before other scientists. Our students leave here prepared for a life in science. And this award by a major biopharmaceutical company to Marta Suazo based on her ‘career potential’ is one more indication that it works.”

The learning-by-doing process has resulted in several awards in recent years for the team in Gorun’s lab. In 2018, Suazo and other students presented their work along with Gorun on “heterogenized fluoro phthalocyanine photocatalysts” at the 256th American Chemical Society’s National Meeting and Exposition in Boston.

“Though some of us are no longer at Seton Hall, our team still remains a team,” Suazo said of the students she has worked with in Gorun’s lab. “We are working towards completing two manuscripts. They are all a part of ‘my science family’ here at Seton Hall and whatever success I’ve had, including this award, we’ve had.”