Serious About Science

Alison D'Addieco -

Sarah Rupchak

Sarah Rupchak, a Carlow University senior biology major with a concentration in perfusion technology, is serious about science. She's just as serious about changing lives.

Rupchak is a chemistry tutor, a student in the Honors Program, and a member of both the biology and chemistry honor societies. She's also mentored young girls as part of Carlow's Strong Women, Strong Girls chapter, and is currently immersed in a 17-month clinical training at UPMC Shadyside Hospital. It's the final portion of Carlow's perfusion programone of only 21 such programs in North America.

A perfusionist operates the cardiopulmonary bypass machine during heart surgeries and heart and lung transplantations. It means Rupchak will not just be changing lives. She'll be saving them.

Rupchak decided on perfusion technology after attending the 2014 international conference of the Society for the Advancement of Hispanics/Chicanos and Native Americans in Science.

"Without that conference," says Rupchak, "I wouldn't know what's out there. It made biology real. It made me think, 'wow, I can actually do this.'"

Rupchak was able to attend the conference thanks to support from Carlow's Mary Ann Sestili, PhD, Fund for Experiential Learning.

Sestili, a former health scientist administrator at the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, graduated from Carlow (then Mount Mercy College) in 1961 with degrees in biology, chemistry, and French. She feels strongly about providing enriching, eye-opening experiences for all studentsparticularly for those who may not otherwise have the funds to do so.

"Dr. Sestili proved to me that, as a first-generation college student, I can overcome any obstacle and be successful," says Rupchak. "More importantly, I can make a real difference. I can help save lives."

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