By Lou Baldwin

Special to The CS&T

Katie Mageeney is still a senior at Cabrini College in Radnor, but she’s something of an expert in the field of mycobacteriophages (viruses that affect bacteria) and can look to a bright future in health research.

She has been published in the scholarly journal BioScience, and in a peer magazine, the Council on Undergraduate Research’s CUR Quarterly. In addition to being a whiz in her chosen field, Mageeney is a mentor to other students. She explains to them in simpler terms than textbooks and lectures the complexities of phage genomics, which come so easily to her but not always to others. As a matter of fact she has given presentations on peer mentoring at William and Mary College in Williamsburg, Va., and in Harrisburg. {{more}}

In a way, this dovetails with her earlier choice of a future vocation, which was to be a teacher, until she realized her real forte was science.

A member of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Norristown, she is the eldest of the four children of Bridget and Charles Springer, with younger brothers Michael and Shane and sister Samantha.

Growing up at St. Francis School and later at Norristown High School, she was active in Catholic activities and CYO, especially in swimming. “I swam since I was 9,” she said.

She was in her junior year of high school when she first realized her scientific bent, and began looking into colleges with a good science program.

That was only one of her requirements. Just as important, she wanted a college where her faith could be nurtured and grow.

“All of the colleges I looked at were religious,” she said. “I wanted to go to a school with a sense of Catholic community.”

Mostly she focused on those area Catholic colleges which, while now co-ed, have a solid tradition of education for women. Ultimately she chose Cabrini, where both the labs and the faculty impressed her. She is happy with her choice.

In 2009 Cabrini was accepted into the Maryland-based Howard Hughes Medical Institute and its Science Education Alliance and Genomics Research Initiative, which has allowed her and other Cabrini students to pursue meaningful research.

Although times are changing, pure science has not been a popular field among women in the past.

“I think they feel it is a man’s field,” she said, “and there are not a lot of women in it already to show the benefits.”

Now in her final undergraduate year as a biology/pre-med major, she is looking at several schools, including Drexel and Lehigh universities and the University of Pittsburgh, for graduate studies and ultimately a doctoral degree in her chosen field.

Meanwhile, as an undergraduate and resident assistant at Cabrini, she remains active with the school’s campus ministry program and serves as a lector and extraordinary minister of holy Communion.

Her desire for a college Catholic community is fulfilled. Would she choose Cabrini if she had to do it all over again?

“Absolutely,” Mageeney said.

Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.