Biology major: Center provides unity in the sciences


What's it like to attend classes in our new Feigenbaum Center for Science and Innovation? In a word, according to biology major Elizabeth Pitroff '16 of North Adams, Mass., it's "fabulous."

As she walks through the Center's hallways and sees many familiar faces, Pitroff - who aims to attend medical school to become a pediatric surgeon - often stops to engage in conversation with others as they discuss topics related to their fields and shared interests.

"The laboratories are functional and spacious, and they provide a great space to apply the concepts learned in lectures," she explained. "I truly feel as though there is cohesion, a unity in the sciences. Having my professors and my peers in such close proximity to the classrooms and laboratories makes the educational aspect more accessible, and the social aspect more convenient and pleasurable."  

Her studies include the research she conducts with Dr. Ann Billetz, chair of MCLA's biology department, as they isolate bacteria from sea anemones to determine their antimicrobial uses.

As a youth, Pitroff was intimidated by the biological sciences. "But, as I aged, the realization that there was an explanation for what I was encountering compelled me to explore further. In general, I enjoy any activity with a scientific background, and studying biology enables me to be more knowledgeable in those situations." 

Pitroff's decision to attend MCLA was easy.

"Because I have always lived in North Adams, I knew staying close to my town routes was important - not only for my overall stability while I attended college, but also to support the college that has been such a presence in the area for decades," Pitroff explained.

Over the years, many members of her family attended and graduated from MCLA.

"I recall from my childhood many memories of being in the various buildings. When it came time to select a school, MCLA was my immediate prospect, given the nostalgic value and the solid educational opportunity I knew it provided."

For Pitroff, who has a young daughter, her focus is on academics and motherhood. She finds commuting to campus enables her to fulfill both responsibilities.

"My academic experience at MCLA has been extremely fulfilling," she said. "The professors are incredibly educated and influential.  MCLA provides a small enough classroom atmosphere where I am able to acquaint myself with my peers and form relationships with my professors. 

"There is a genuine vested interest for my future both from faculty and the companions I have made. The classroom and laboratory components of MCLA are so engaging and interactive."

MCLA, said Pitroff, provides an expansive array of opportunities, which include the chance to explore the environment of southern Florida earlier this year, with a group of students led by Dr. Daniel Shustack.

"The programs of study and academic ventures are first-rate. You will assuredly be fulfilled during your time at MCLA, by both social and educational engagements," she said. "I never considered how many opportunities existed for me to experience or elaborate on the material I am studying.  With its overall atmosphere, in conjunction with the curriculum, MCLA provides a conducive, engaging and fulfilling learning experience!"