A specimen being handled in a Medical and Molecular Sciences laboratory.

CHS Class of 2023 Spotlight: Medical & Molecular Sciences

May 22, 2023 Written by Amy Cherry | Photos by Ashley Barnas

We're honoring the Class of 2023 by shining the spotlight on some of the best and brightest graduates from the Medical and Molecular Sciences Department in the College of Health Sciences.

Carly Coulombe, a senior medical diagnostics major with a pre-physician assistant concentration, is heading to the Physician Assistant Studies program at Thomas Jefferson University’s East Falls campus in Philadelphia after graduation.

Carly Coulombe | Medical Diagnostics with Pre-Physician Assistant Concentration Major

Three words to describe the UD CHS experience: Evolving. Opportunistic. Happy.

Carly Coulombe attended the University of Delaware College of Health Sciences knowing she wanted to go to physician assistant (PA) school.

“I fell in love with the campus,” she said. “Hearing about students’ experience with the major and how well-prepared they are inspired me. I also had a cousin going into PA school, and he told me all the students from Delaware knew their stuff and blew them out of the water.”

She enrolled as a medical diagnostics major with a pre-physician assistant concentration. She called the courseload interesting.

“A lot of people wanting to go into the medical field take the traditional biology or chemistry route, but I love the classes in the medical diagnostics major; they’re focused on treatment plans based on diagnostic tests, and that’s something that a lot of my friends in different majors aren’t exposed to, so I felt like this major gives you a holistic background on all the parts of medicine,” Coulombe said. “Besides anatomy and physiology, I got to take immunology, immunohematology, and hematology, so it’s really grounded my knowledge for PA school.”

While she was fascinated by her behind-the-scenes work in the lab, Coulombe developed a love for patient care through her time working as a medical assistant at a spinal pain clinic.

“I love forming relationships with my patients. When you form that connection with patients, it’s a relationship like no other; it is a very vulnerable relationship, and I’ve grown such an appreciation for that.”

This fall, Coulombe is off to Physician Assistant Studies program at Thomas Jefferson University’s East Falls campus in Philadelphia. At UD, she’s found a wealth of opportunities to grow herself in ways that prepared her for this next step in her journey.

“Academically, your professors are always pushing you. The Medical and Molecular Sciences Department, particularly Dr. Virginia Hughes, sends out every opportunity that exists for patient contact or shadowing. They really want you to succeed; they love answering questions and are always available.

“The courses are really rigorous, but they push you to do better than you ever thought you could,” Coulombe said. “I came into this major feeling a little unsure, and now I feel very confident and competent and that’s attributed to the courseload.”

Last year, she also served as president of the Chi Omega fraternity. She called her time with the organization “life-changing.”  

“Without that organization and my leadership role, I would not be the person I am today. It definitely taught me about time management, how to be a professional and how to network, but also how to really focus on my academics,” she said.

During Winter Session 2022, Coulombe embarked on a study abroad trip to Trieste, Italy, where she had an opportunity to shadow doctors and nurses. It marked her first exposure to surgery which solidified that PA school was the right choice for her.

“I got to watch cardiothoracic, orthopedic, and neurologic surgeries,” she said. “It was so awesome. The doctors who are part of the UD/Atlantis program love that they’re the first people to expose you to this side of medicine. I got to watch open heart surgery; I watched a cardiac bypass graft, and they were like, ‘Get as close as you want.’ I got to interact with a lot of the Italian med students, and they were so excited to spend time with us and practice their English.”

That global perspective will make her a better physician assistant.

“It’s really interesting learning about how different medicine is across the world,” she said. “Those shadowing experiences are such a unique part of UD’s study abroad program.”

Coulombe thanked UD for being her home for the past four years.

“I was a very scared freshman starting out, and UD had so many resources for me to become my best self,” she said. “Thank you, UD, for presenting me with all these opportunities and having me transform into a completely different, but better person than I was when I walked in. I never expected college to shape me the way it did, and I’m so grateful for the person I am today.”

Medical diagnostics senior Ciana Fe Gadut is taking a gap year so she can obtain more clinical experience ahead of applying to medical school.

Ciana Fe Gadut | Medical Diagnostics Major

Three words to describe her UD CHS experience: Involved. Community. Preparation.

As a child, Ciana Fe Gadut remembers carrying around a doctor kit with a stethoscope and band-aids. She aspired to be the first doctor in her family, and now as she prepares to graduate from the University of Delaware, she’s one step closer to accomplishing that goal.

The lifelong Dover resident chose UD because it was close to home and had a great reputation.

“UD has a really great science program, and that’s what drew me here,” she said. “Since I’m pursuing medicine, I really wanted to stay close to home and give back to the community as well.”

She decided to enroll in the College of Health Sciences and major in medical diagnostics because of the diversity and flexibility of the program.

“I’ve always liked biology and I love anatomy, so that’s why I decided to major in medical diagnostics,” Fe Gadut said. “As I looked at the curriculum for medical diagnostics, what stood out to me was that we had a lot of physics options, and we also cover biochemistry, which you need for the MCAT, so that was really beneficial in my eyes. I also really loved the blood banking, microbiology, and anatomy classes.”

As an honors student, she found the program stimulating in all the right ways.

“Being an honors student challenges you especially if you’re looking to go more in-depth in the areas of study you’re pursuing,” she said. “It really helped shape my freshman year because the courses they offer prepare you for the next steps in your coursework.”

With graduation looming, Fe Gadut is taking a gap year to gain more clinical experience as she applies to medical schools. She hopes to shadow or scribe at Bayhealth in her hometown of Dover. She’s not certain what type of physician she aspires to be yet.

“I’m keeping my options open, but I’m leaning more towards the surgery department,” she said.

But she’s confident that UD has prepared her for this next step in her career.

“I’ve heard a lot from medical school representatives, who’ve returned to talk to us in the past, and it definitely seems like the courses at UD are as intensive as the introductory courses at medical school, so that will be helpful.”

In addition to her rigorous coursework, she said the Medical Scholars Program has been helpful too.

“Starting off as a freshman here at UD with absolutely no idea how to even pursue a career in a medical field, they give you a lot of guidelines,” she said. “They provide you with a great outline of what you need to accomplish by your sophomore year; they also give you a lot of resources and advice about the complex medical school application process.”

During her time at UD, Fe Gadut joined the Rotoract Club, which is the college version of Rotary that promotes community service. She also joined Save 8, whose members work to raise awareness about organ donation and organize on-campus blood drives, and Delaware Diplomats, which encourages study abroad.

As she prepares for her next chapter, Fe Gadut had this bit of conflicting, but well-intentioned advice for UD:

“Don’t change because you encourage your students a lot, but also change with your students,” she said. “UD was a pioneer in study abroad, and that was a nice thing for them to introduce to the students. So, both keep encouraging your students and providing them with a wide array of opportunities, but also keep changing with the students and find more ways to include more students in participating in life here at UD.”

Applied molecular biology and biotechnology major Andrew Martin has enjoyed his senior year internship working at SDIX in Newark and could see a career for himself in research.

Andrew Martin | Applied Molecular Biology and Biotechnology Major

Three words to describe the UD CHS experience: Fascinating. Enlightening. Challenging

Andrew Martin was lucky enough to find his passion in high school. At Conrad Schools of Science, he took biotechnology classes and knew he wanted to pursue a career in this field.  

He enrolled at the University of Delaware as an applied molecular biology and biotechnology major and knew instantly UD was the perfect fit.

“Delaware is my home, and when it comes to Delaware, if you know someone, you know them from more than one direction,” he said, speaking affectionately about the state’s six degrees of separation status.

But it wasn’t until his junior year, when he had his first biotechnology-specific lab that he got to further explore his passion.  

“We started working with e. Coli strains, and we took plasma containing genetic material and put them into the bacteria and watched the bacteria fundamentally change its behavior,” he said. “I love the concept of being able to quantify and directly manipulate life itself. Taking something that’s so mysterious and complex and doing something with it directly and gleaning data from that to make it something you can understand is fascinating.”

But his favorite experience, by far, was his senior year internship with SDIX, a biotechnology company in Newark.

“We work on the purification of antibodies,” he said. “The net result is a mixture that contains antibodies that are essential for modern diagnostic techniques. For example, if you need to catch a specific molecule from someone’s blood, these are the type of antibodies that make this specificity possible.”

Martin has always been driven by curiosity and could see a career for himself in research.

“It irks me to have to say, ‘I don’t know the answer.’ I want to know; I have to know,” he said.

In his free time, Martin loves gaming and “casual learning.”

“There are many things I would not do as a job that I find inherently fascinating. Physics, for example, I looked at Einstein’s actual field equations and tried to understand them,” Martin said. “There’s so much more to know than a human being can ever know at once, and I take that as a challenge.”

Now, he’s staring down his next challenge as he’s performing job searches post-graduation. His dream job:

“Working with complex cell culture, beyond bacteria, and working with insect and mammalian cell lines,” he said.

He’s confident in his abilities to get there thanks to UD.

“Thank you for paving the road,” he said. “I knew my goal before I even arrived here, I just didn’t know how to get there, who to consult, where to go, and how to go from book smarts to having a material understanding of what I need to do to be a professional in biotechnology, and I’ve definitely achieved that at UD.”

After commencement, Rose Principe will be working as a Medical Laboratory Scientist II at the University of Maryland, where she hopes to attend medical school.

Rose Principe | Medical Laboratory Science Major

Three words to describe the UD CHS experience:

I enjoyed it.

Rose Principe of eastern Maryland entered the University of Delaware as a linguistics major thinking she wanted to work in government.

“I got two weeks into the classes and realized it wasn’t for me,” she said.

She did a complete 180 and joined the Medical Laboratory Science (MLS) program and never looked back. She was fascinated by classes like microbiology, blood bank, and hematology.

“I love the program,” she said. “It’s really challenging and intellectually stimulating.”

Principe remembers thinking about a career as a doctor at a young age.

“I’ve always had an interest in microbes and parasites,” she said. “When I was little, I used to draw a lot as a kid. I was fascinated by anatomy and would check out anatomy books from the library.”  

Through her time as an MLS major, she’s learned to love the science of medicine. Principe enjoys performing tests in the laboratory and knowing the science behind those tests. She calls it thrilling.

“Sometimes, even just for a moment, you know something that no one else knows, and you get the first glimpse of what’s going on, and you can piece together a patient’s clinical picture. Even though you never see them, you know exactly what’s going on with them,” she said.

But she also realized during the pandemic that she likes seeing patients. She worked as a phlebotomist at University of Maryland Shore Regional Health, and those patient interactions inspired her to pursue a career in medicine.

After graduation, Principe plans to take a gap year and work as an MLS II in the microbiology department at the University of Maryland in Baltimore. That’s also her top choice for medical school. She aspires to be a pathologist or an infectious disease physician.

Principe said UD’s Medical and Molecular Sciences Department has greatly prepared her for the next step on her journey.

“While I was shadowing a pathologist at the University of Maryland, we were going over slides for cancer patients, and I remember the pathologist was asking general questions of fourth-year med students and residents, and she asked a question that I was able to answer because I just had an exam on it,” she said. “I felt like I was showing off. I was so excited.”

During her time at UD, Principe joined the Phi Delta Epsilon International Medical Fraternity on campus.

“It was a great way to meet other people interested in medicine and get more involved in volunteering,” she said. “Prior to joining the fraternity, all of my friends were in the arts, so it was interesting to meet like-minded people.”

She also worked as a clerk in the blood bank at Christiana Hospital, where she spent time processing orders and issuing blood. While she can’t perform tests because she doesn’t have her MLS certification yet, the position further affirmed for her that she’s on the right path.

“It’s interesting, and I get to see what goes on behind the scenes, and I love it.”

As she prepares to depart UD, she had inspiring words for her soon-to-be alma mater:

“Continue to invest in health sciences because I always brag about how awesome the programs in the College of Health Sciences are,” she said. “I can’t wait to see where the field goes in the future. The STAR Campus did not exist a few years ago, so I’m very excited to see what’s next for UD.”

Natalie Pulicicchio said her time in the Medical and Molecular Sciences Department has prepared her well for her next step in her career journey: physician assistant school.

Natalie Pulicicchio | Medical Laboratory Science Major

Three words to describe the UD CHS experience:  Busy. Exciting. Surprising.

Natalie Pulicicchio was inspired to pursue a career in health sciences in high school.

“My AP biology teacher was so inspiring; she would bring in former students to talk about their professions; she brought in doctors, nurses, physician assistants, and they inspired me to pursue medicine.”

Those experiences influenced her decision to enroll at the University of Delaware College of Health Sciences as a medical diagnostics major with a pre-physician assistant concentration. She ultimately switched majors to medical laboratory science because of its versatility.

“It’s a lot easier for me to understand the material because I’m such a hands-on person,” she said. “You also have a lot more opportunities; we’ve been introduced to so many career paths – not just in labs – but in biotech companies. My MLS degree affords me a lot more options after graduation.”

Pulicicchio has enjoyed her time in clinical rotations, learning different aspects of the lab, but the outgoing and social aspects of her personality made her want to have a more direct impact on patient care.

“These experiences made me look forward to working in a hospital one day. My supervisors were so helpful, and they made me excited to learn at work,” she said. “It also made me realize that even after you graduate from college you still learn something new every day.”

At UD, she also volunteered with Lori Hands, a nonprofit organization that provides in-home support for people with chronic illnesses. There, she spent nearly two years with the same client.

“It was super important to me,” she said, “Even though I wasn’t giving her medical care, I was providing her with personal needs and giving her somebody to depend on. Knowing she had somebody there made me feel so much better.”

After graduation, Pulicicchio plans to apply to physician assistant schools.

“Medical school was always a little bit daunting for me. With PA school, I’d have a much quicker route to my career,” she said.

She’s confident her time in UD’s Medical and Molecular Sciences Department prepared her well for this next step on her journey.

“The MMSC Department has specifically taught me things that I would not have learned with a biology degree,” she said. “In classes like hematology and microbiology, I learned how to interpret CVC results or chemistry results.”

As she prepares to say goodbye to UD, Pulicicchio has an overwhelming feeling of gratitude.

“Thank you for the opportunities that you’ve given me. It’s been really hard, but I know that it was definitely worth it in the long run, and I couldn’t have imagined it any other way.”


CHS Class of 2023 Convocation Video

The top graduates across departments in the College of Health Sciences class of 2023 share their memories and what had a lasting impact on their time at the University of Delaware.

2023 CHS Seniors Video: youtube.com/watch?v=zLwMSPqwllo

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