MEDIA, Pa. — When Maddie Malfara came to Penn State Brandywine she was a biomedical engineering major who planned to transfer to University Park after two years. Now as a junior, the Schreyer Honors scholar plans to stay put at Brandywine. Malfara switched her major to biology and is excelling in her field.
In high school, the biology classes Malfara took did not spark her interest, but an overall love of science brought her to an initial interest in engineering. Yet when she got to Brandywine and registered in biology courses, the more advanced and intriguing content changed her opinion of the subject.
She soon switched her major to Biology with a vertebrate physiology option.
“I love engineering and learned valuable skills, even during the short time I was taking classes for it, but changing to a biology major was one of the best decisions I’ve made while here,” Malfara said. “I figured out that I love science and want to do it for the rest of my life, and have had amazing opportunities to work with biology faculty on campus.”
Malfara began her research experience outside of the classroom by working in the Brandywine science labs as an assistant to the laboratory director. She spent this time putting out equipment for labs, learning how to make stock solutions of chemicals, and developing essential skills and laboratory methods.
After a year of working as an assistant, Malfara was craving a research-based opportunity and reached out to Brandywine biology professor, Dr. Megan Povelones, who agreed to let Malfara work in her lab. Projects that Malfara has worked on include mitochondrial dynamics such as fusion and fission in the model organisms T. brucei and C. fasciculata.
Malfara has an interest in how the content she is studying in classes relates to real world problems and diseases. Because she plans to attend medical school, she feels it is crucial for her to understand how diseases work on a cellular level.
Malfara states that being an honors scholar has offered her many opportunities. The honors course offerings each semester have pushed her to enroll in classes she wouldn’t necessarily think to take.
“Some of the honors classes I have taken I wouldn’t have normally registered for because they aren’t something I thought I would be interested in,” she said. “However, I end up enjoying them.”
Malfara has also taken advantage of the honors option opportunity. This allowed her to work on interesting projects with the science faculty that would otherwise be out of reach. Malfara believes that honors courses and options help students in finding their niche.
“It allows the students to have meaningful relationships with professors, pushes them to do research, and ultimately find out what they might want to do for the rest of their lives,” she said.
Malfara credits much of her success and the opportunities she has been given to the Brandywine science faculty, who have always been supportive of her education and future career.
As her senior year approaches, Malfara has been working with Dr. Povelones to hone in on a project for her honors thesis.
Outside of the lab, Malfara is the secretary for the Lion Ambassadors. She has played on the Brandywine softball team since her freshman year, and volunteers as a coach for the recreational softball teams in her community.
Malfara plans to continue to work in Dr. Povelones’s lab until she graduates. She aims to excel in the classes she has left and throw her energy into her honors thesis.
Malfara will graduate from Penn State Brandywine in Spring 2019. She plans to attend medical school.