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National science honor for Warhawk biologist

April 17, 2017

Written by Marisa LaBello   |  Photo by Craig Schreiner

Crossgrove, DannoAssociate Professor Kirsten Crossgrove, left, and junior Amanda Danno, who received a Goldwater Scholarship honorable mention, in the lobby of Upham Hall on the UW-Whitewater campus on Thursday, April 13, 2017.

Amanda Danno's passion for science radiates in and out of the laboratory.

"In one word, enthusiastic describes Amanda perfectly," said Kirsten Crossgrove, associate professor of biological sciences and Amanda's research mentor. "She lives and breathes research — you talk to her and can see she loves what she does."

Danno, from Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, knew UW-Whitewater was the perfect fit when she learned about the research programs offered by the university. From the start of her freshman year, Danno has immersed herself in biology.

"Working with Dr. Crossgrove has been a breath of knowledge," Danno said. "I've been exposed to things I never knew were out there and have gained so much confidence."

The two focus on the development of parasitic roundworms that infect humans in tropical areas of the world with a disease called lymphatic filariasis. The disease causes blockage of the lymphatic channels leading to severe swelling, hardening and thickening of the skin.

Their interest centers on the signals the parasite receives when it goes from the mosquito to the human host and how these environmental signals control parasite development. Understanding how the signals work can help scientists develop ideas for drug and vaccine therapies.

Crossgrove has seen Danno flourish through their research projects. From being initially intimidated to be working with professors, Danno now spends hours with faculty in their offices and is able to take the reins in the lab. She has found a new independence that she carries into her research.

Danno is a recipient of the campus's Joseph & Madeline Chopp scholarship and a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship grant. She recently presented her work at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research at the University of Memphis on April 6-8.

Her accomplishments have served as stepping-stones to her most recent success.

On March 31, Danno received Honorable Mention recognition from the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation.

"I started to cry," Danno said. "This is a dream come true."

The Goldwater honor is the premier undergraduate award of its type in the sciences, mathematics and engineering fields. It is a competitive award that opens doors of opportunity for recipients.

Danno's complex research and dedication has earned her a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, where she will study with researchers in virology and gene therapy.

With an interest in new waves of individualized medicine, Danno plans to pursue a M.D.-Ph.D. Her dream is to have a career in clinical research, specifically in molecular and medicinal genetics.