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Julianna Donohoe in Spain with her colleague

Microbiology senior undertakes neuroscience research in Spain

By Srila Nayak
Julianna Donohoe, microbiology senior

Graduation in three years plus a substantive study abroad experience may seem like a lot, but microbiology senior Julianna Donohoe has done just that. This summer, she spent 10 weeks in Madrid, Spain, as a Benjamin Gilman International Scholar.

Donohoe was a medical research intern at the Cajal Institute, a leading research center in neuroscience, where she spent her time assisting with research on Parkinson’s disease. Interested in a career in medical research and possibly becoming a physician, Donohoe was curious about how the neurological disease was studied in a research laboratory. As a Gilman Scholar in Spain, Donohoe had the opportunity to learn and contribute to research on how the brain is damaged by Parkinson’s disease.

Donohoe applied to the internship through IE3 Global, Oregon State University’s international internship and study abroad program. Gilman international scholarships are awarded by the U.S. Department of State. Donohoe is one of 13 Gilman Scholars from OSU chosen to study or intern abroad in summer and fall 2018.

As a Gilman Scholar, Donohoe received financial support for her internship in Madrid. She had gotten a taste of research sorting soil samples for pathogens in microbiology professor Jerri Bartholomew’s Lab and was eager to explore the differences and similarities in research environments in the different countries.

Donohoe discovered a “more relaxed and relationship-focused work atmosphere” in her lab in Madrid.

“I would recommend study abroad to anyone. It makes you more confident. It gives you a different perspective on what matters at work in a different culture, and how that compares with what you already know,” she elaborates. “Getting a different worldview makes you even out as a person.”

Donahoe divided her time in Spain between performing immunohistochemistry techniques in the lab, reading and editing research papers and traveling across the country’s beautiful coastal cities.

After graduation, Donohoe plans to work toward a Ph.D. and a M.D.— a dream that she has been striving for since she was in high school. The Klamath Lake resident started studying for a clinical nursing assistant (CNA) degree through a community college while still in high school. Now she works as a nursing assistant at a rehabilitation center in Albany once a week to help care for elderly patients.

Donohoe’s passion for service in the field of health is inspiring and humbling. Not only does she assist rehab and geriatric patients with daily activities as a nursing assistant but also volunteers at a program for disabled adults at OSU. At Impact for Life, Donohoe volunteers as a work-out and swimming buddy of a person with a mental disability. “I enjoy it and it is a nice way of giving back,” Donohoe says simply.

The microbiology senior initially planned to attend college in Klamath Falls, Oregon, until an admissions official from OSU spoke to her class and she found out about the “impressive” research taking place at the university, not to mention the numerous opportunities to engage in undergraduate research.

“I came and toured here and I immediately knew this is where I needed to be. I have really enjoyed OSU so far,” Donohoe said.

Growing up in a family of naturopathic physicians, Donohoe developed an avid interest in the natural world, science and mathematics. She got hooked on microbiology after reading Richard Preston’s The Demon in the Freezer about the eradication of smallpox.

Donohoe looks forward to making the most of her final year at OSU by diving into upper-level microbiology courses and preparing for internships after graduation. Her experiences in Spain have exposed her to the benefits of collaborating across borders with scientists to explore and solve challenging medical problems. And as a Science Beaver, Donohoe cannot wait to expand her horizons even further.

Feature photo: Julianna Donohoe (left) with a friend.