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Circe McDonald

When Circe McDonald presented research focused on developmental neurotoxins at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research last spring, she received a standing ovation. This was not the first time she has earned audience acclaim.

Circe was an all-state musician at her performing arts high school in Las Vegas. While she shifted her focus to science upon entering Dominican, she was able to continue her passion for music by playing flute with the Dominican Chamber Ensemble. Indeed, Circe immersed herself in a wide variety of interests throughout her four years at Dominican.

“If you are curious about the world, you end up doing a little bit of everything and sometimes going in different directions,” says Circe, who graduated with honors, earning a bachelor’s degree in biology with an emphasis in molecular cell biology and minors in chemistry and philosophy.

“When I went to college I thought I’d leave the humanities behind me, but I was inspired by the passion of my professors in my GE courses and became very involved in ethics and philosophy.”

Her freshman year, Circe quickly gained recognition as an outstanding student in the Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. Circe decided pursue a career in biomedical research after working alongside faculty mentor Dr. Mohammed El Majdoubi the second semester of her freshman year. Circe quickly began contributing to his studies on neural differentiation of embryonic stem cells and carcinomas.

Her experiences conducting laboratory research at Dominican helped her earn competitive internships throughout her undergraduate years. She was an Amgen Scholar at the University of Washington during summer 2011 and a Research Assistant at BioMarin from 2010 to 2012. During summer 2012, Circe participated in the Research Experience for Undergraduates program in Colorado State University’s Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. In September 2012 she began working at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, working in the Kennedy Lab on research focused on diabetes.

“Circe is an enthusiastic, bright, driven, free-thinking, and hard-working individual with a diverse set of interests in and out of science,” says Dr. Majdoubi. “She has shown immense interest in science and ability to take on this area’s unique challenges in order to complete tasks and understand complex ideas. Further, she is unafraid to ask questions, make mistakes, and speak up. Circe has a strong foundation in biology and often makes the stretch between the sciences and other disciplines.”

President of Beta Beta Beta and Alpha Chi honor societies, Circe was co-editor of the Pulse, the Department of Natural Sciences and Mathematics’ newsletter. One spring she worked for a health clinic in Tijuana, Mexico. She also hosted a radio show on Dominican Radio.

An active member of the Marin community, Circe has volunteered for the National Park Service, Marin AIDS Project, Bridge the Gap, Wildcare, and the Marine Mammal Center. She also has presented her research in the humanities and science at national and international academic conferences.

This academic year Circe was awarded a Lillian L.Y. Wang Yin Ph.D. Scholarship. Following graduation, she will pursue a career in veterinary research beginning as a research assistant at UCSF with hopes of entering a DVM/PhD program. 

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