Last updated: February 20. 2013 1:53AM - 350 Views

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It is the love of a challenge that has drawn Misericordia senior Danielle Monelli Yurko '06,'13, of Sweet Valley, toward a career in biochemistry research.

The 30-year-old, who is expecting twins in July, is also just months away from finishing her second undergraduate degree at Misericordia. Her perseverance and dedication to her new field have already brought her honors.

Yurko is the first Misericordia student to present at an annual meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB), the largest gathering of experts in that particular field of science. The 52nd annual ASCB meeting was held in San Francisco, Calif., in December and drew more than 6,000 participants, including esteemed researchers from around the world.

Accompanied to San Francisco by her research mentor Angela Asirvatham, Ph.D., associate professor of biology, Yurko was one of 300 scientists to present at the undergraduate session and one of 3,000 presenters at the graduate, postdoctoral and faculty level. Dr. Asirvatham also presented at the event, as she has for the past seven years.

The research the pair is doing is ultimately dedicated to finding a faster way to repair nerve cells damaged by spinal cord injury and multiple sclerosis.

Yurko admits her career path has been much like a science experiment, full of stops and starts and changed directions. She earned her first undergraduate degree in communications at Misericordia in 2006 as a non-traditional student, taking classes at night and on weekends while working full time.

An interest in medicine and health care – and in particular the new physician assistant program – drew her back to campus in 2009. Yet, it was in her first organic chemistry class where she found a passion for lab experimentation.

Her interest in medical research led her to Dr. Asirvatham, whose doctoral research involved autoimmune disease. The two have been working on a particular portion of Schwann cell research since January 2012.

Yurko hopes to earn a Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular genetics and plans a career in biomedical research specializing in autoimmune and multi-drug resistant diseases.

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