Sacred Heart University and NLS Therapeutic Discovery will conduct a summer camp August 5-16 to introduce high school students to computer-aided drug design.

Now in its second year, the camp will teach students to use sophisticated drug-design software to aid in the discovery of new drugs. The students also will receive a high-level, pre-college introduction to the scientific, ethical, legal and business aspects of drug development.

This “Computational Drug Discovery Summer Science Experience” will engage students for two highly interactive and rewarding weeks. “During week one, students will learn about the drug discovery process and the basic theory and art of computer-aided drug design, especially as it applies

to analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antipyretic drugs,” said program director Joseph Audie. “During week two, students will apply their newfound knowledge and skills to design and propose novel drug candidates to treat antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections. They also will attend talks given by experts in the field of drug discovery.”

The experience will close with the creation of student posters showing research findings, which can be used at scientific conferences.

“Last year’s camp was highly educational and engaging,” said Owen O’Reilly, a junior at Joel Barlow High School. “All the activities were learning experiences. It was great and a must-attend for anyone considering biochemistry or bioengineering as a field of study.”

Participants will acquire knowledge and skills using cutting-edge laboratory techniques and instruments, Audie said. Moreover, they will sharpen critical thinking skills through scientific investigation and will be enriched by presentations from leading industry experts.

“In addition to gaining valuable new knowledge and skills, students will learn about educational and professional opportunities in the field of drug discovery and development,” Audie said, “and how computational drug science intersects with physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, computer science and the universal call to engage in works of justice and mercy.”

An associate professor of biochemistry at Sacred Heart, Audie holds a doctorate in biophysics and is co-founder of computational peptide drug-design company CMDBioscience, LLC. He also serves as CEO of NLS Life Science and Therapeutics Discovery, LLC. Joining Audie for the camp will be two other members of Sacred Heart’s science faculty: Todd J. Sullivan, a lecturer who holds a doctorate in medicinal chemistry, and Benjamin Alper, an assistant professor of chemistry who has a doctorate in biochemistry and molecular biology. These three will work directly with the students as both teachers and guides.

Students who successfully finish the program will receive formal certificates of completion. For more information, contact Joseph Audie at (203) 371-7793 or

Community Connections, Education


Guest speaker John Hamilton will discuss the ways addiction can affect family and friends and what can be done for those affected by the disease.


WHO: John Hamilton is president and CEO of Liberation Programs.


WHERE: University Commons Auditorium at Sacred Heart University, 5151 Park Avenue, Fairfield


WHEN: Wednesday, February 27, at 3:30 p.m.


SPONSOR: Connecticut Healthy Campus Initiative, Human Journey Colloquia Series


TICKETS: The event is free and open to the public.

Education, Fashion Sense


Over the last decade, Sacred Heart University’s fashion marketing & merchandising program has seen its share of growth and change. The Jack Welch College of Business program was offered as a concentration in 2009, became a minor in 2015 and will be a major this fall.

There is a demand for the major, said David Bloom, program director. More than 100 students are enrolled in the minor, and having the major better prepares students for the competitive industry, he said.

The major comprises nine courses (27 credits) including a rotation of fashion electives. Courses will teach the skills and knowledge students will need to be successful, such as fashion marketing, which will introduce students to the field and its history. “Students will create their own fashion lines and develop a business line,” Bloom said.

A course on fashion buying teaches students about product line analysis, vendor relations and negotiating. Other courses deal with textiles, management and creating an image around a brand. Seniors can take a fashion seminar on issues surrounding the fashion industry, as well.

Students also will have the opportunity to study abroad in Milan and Paris for a two-week, three-credit, fashion brand marketing class. “It’s great exposure,” Bloom said.

Senior Katharine Li, 21, of Lyndhurst, N.J., a marketing major who is minoring in the fashion program, was part of a SHU group that went to Milan last summer. She said studying abroad was “an amazing experience,” and likely will be one of her “favorite college memories.”

“Milan is one of the fashion capitals of the world, so it was incredible to see the importance of fashion in the culture,” Li said. “The class in Milan was called ‘fashion brand marketing,’ and we learned about various types of brands. It was very interesting to see the brands not only in a different country, but also where they originated. We also took a trip up to Lake Como and toured a famous silk factory.”

Among her fashion studies at SHU, Li said she has enjoyed the program’s hands-on classes. “The textiles class was very interactive. We worked with over 100 fabric swatches. I also enjoyed the end-of-semester projects in each class,” she said.

In the last three-and-a-half years, Li had two internships in the fashion field. At The Impression, an online magazine, she published posts on the website and ran its social media pages. At a private-label wholesale company, Li worked with various fabrics. After graduation in May, she will seek jobs in styling and costume design.

Like Li, students in the fashion marketing & merchandising program will gain job experience through internships. The University’s proximity to New York City gives students easier access to potential internships at nearby fashion giants.

Just because students are studying fashion doesn’t mean they have to have a career in the apparel industry, Bloom said. They can apply their fashion experience and education to design trends in cell phones, automobiles or other products. “When you can analyze trends, you can carry that knowledge into any business,” he said.

Graduates who minored in fashion merchandising have landed jobs in digital marketing, product development and graphic design at companies such as Reebok, Asics, Vineyard Vines, American Eagle, Jack Rogers and FitFlops, Bloom said.

“We highly anticipate the launch of this innovative new business major. I expect it to be successful and a popular complement to our current undergraduate department majors in marketing, sport management and hospitality, resort & tourism management,” said Joshua Shuart, chair of the Marketing Department.

For more information on the fashion marketing & merchandising program, visit



Honors Biochemistry students at The Ethel Walker School (Walker’s) are getting their hands dirty as they confront one of the top global health threats — the diminishing supply of effective antibiotics. This year’s class of fourteen girls has joined the Tiny Earth network, an innovative program that has students isolate bacteria from soil in their local environments that could lead to novel antibiotics. Their discoveries will be added to a national database. The Tiny Earth program also encourages students to pursue careers in scientific research.

“There is a growing economic need for more STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) graduates. Yet, the number of students pursuing STEM degrees has been decreasing, especially among women and minorities.” said Dr. Julia Sheldon, dean of academics at Walker’s and co-instructor of the class with Dr. Suzanne Piela.

Dr. Sheldon, who earned a Ph.D. in bioorganic chemistry at Yale University, is co-teaching the course with Dr. Piela, who earned her D.V.M. at the University of Minnesota. Walker’s honors biochemistry course runs in partnership with Tiny Earth that was founded at Yale in 2012. After completing the application process, The Ethel Walker School was chosen as one of only five high schools in the U.S. selected to participate in the initiative. Walker’s was awarded a $9,300 grant from The VWR Foundation and received additional private funding to support the start-up and ongoing fees of the five-year program that started in Fall 2016.

Dr. Piela notes the classroom is flipped so that the laboratory research is center stage while other activities are used to support the research process. “Our students are extremely enthusiastic to be able to contribute to a real-world issue by conducting primary research right here in our community,” said Dr. Piela. “We want the girls to learn lab skills that they will use at the college level, as well as how to advocate for their work and how to be effective in the STEM field.”

The honors level course for students in junior and senior classes allows the girls to conduct original hands-on field and lab research in the hunt for new antibiotics. Through a series of student-driven experiments, students collect soil samples, identify and isolate diverse bacteria, test their bacteria against clinically-relevant microorganisms, and characterize those showing inhibitory activity. This is particularly relevant since over two thirds of antibiotics originate from soil bacteria or fungi.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), pathogenic bacteria resistant to current antibiotics are potentially the most important medical challenge facing humans in the 21st century. If no significant action is taken by 2050, these bacteria will kill more people than cancer and diabetes combined and will result in 300 million premature deaths. While pharmaceutical companies have shifted away from developing new antibiotics, existing antibiotics are losing efficacy due to widespread antibiotic resistance.

Tiny Earth is a network of instructors and students focused on crowdsourcing antibiotic discovery from soil. The mission of the program is two-fold. First, it seeks to inspire students to pursue careers in science through original laboratory and field research conducted in introductory courses with the potential for global impact. Second, it aims to address a worldwide health threat — the diminishing supply of effective antibiotics — by tapping into the collective power of many student researchers concurrently tackling the same challenge, living up to its motto “Student sourcing antibiotic discovery.” Learn more at



Sacred Heart University to offer communications disorders course in Fall

Sacred Heart University speech-language pathology student Katie Bednarz works with a client during an articulation camp at the Center for Healthcare Education. Photo by Tracy Deer-Mirek (2018)

Sacred Heart University’s College of Health Professions has established a new undergraduate major program in communication disorders, opening in fall of 2019. It will prepare students for graduate work in the fields of speech-language pathology (SLP) or audiology.

The degree can be pursued as either a traditional 4-year or an accelerated 3+2 program. The 3+2 option includes three years of undergraduate work before entering the two year master’s degree program. The undergraduate curriculum consists of courses in preparation for graduate work, including anatomy, physiology, and neurology of speech, language, hearing and swallowing; as well as courses on the typical development of speech, language, and hearing; the nature of sound, and the structure of language. The program also requires courses in science, math and psychology.

“This new program prepares students for jobs in speech-language pathology upon completion of a two-year master’s degree, following their undergraduate program,” said Rhea Paul, chair of the SLP program. Students wishing to become audiologists will pursue a three-year professional doctorate in their field. Speech-language pathologists and audiologists are in high demand, Paul said.

“There is a need for these professionals because as the baby boomers age, they experience trouble with hearing and communication,” she said. “They will need rehabilitation and professionals to provide it.”

These professionals also work with children, and there is especially strong demand for speech-language pathologists to work in schools to help young people succeed in the classroom, according to Paul.

“People see these professions as a solid opportunity,” Paul said. “It’s a lifelong career.”
For more information on the communication disorders program, including course work, visit




Sacred Heart University’s Isabelle Farrington College of Education is establishing a Doctor of Education degree in educational leadership, dedicated to preparing school leaders’ expertise in social, emotional and academic leadership (SEAL).

This is the first doctoral program the Farrington College of Education offers, and it’s the first of its kind in the state. The degree is targeted to working and licensed educational leaders such as principals, superintendents, curriculum leaders and special education directors and is also seeking candidates who have informal leadership roles such as department chairs and instructional coaches. The program will prepare doctoral candidates to lead school communities from a whole-child perspective. It will be will be directed by David G. Title, clinical assistant professor, former superintendent of schools of the Bloomfield and Fairfield school systems and the 2010 Superintendent of the Year in Connecticut. The program will include classes, doctoral seminars and a capstone dissertation, to be completed in three years.

Michael P. Alfano, dean of the Farrington College of Education, said academic leaders often do not get much SEAL training while preparing to lead schools and school communities. As a result, they often are forced to learn on the job. “We’re going to teach these leaders to manage and lead in a social and emotional space,” Alfano said. “Not only will the administrators learn how to effectively manage curriculum, budgets and personnel, but they will learn how to handle trauma from a child’s perspective and how to work with the classroom educator who is teaching that child.”

Currently, educational leaders experience limited formal training concerning complex issues associated with leading and managing the social and emotional well-being of the students, faculty, families and communities in their charge, Alfano explained. The doctoral program aims to change that.

The desire to establish the doctoral program came from Alfano’s experience with the Sandy Hook tragedy. Throughout his career, Alfano was affected by it–a teacher who was murdered in the shooting was a graduate student in the department he chaired at Southern Connecticut State University, and while he was dean of the School of Education and Professional Studies at Central Connecticut State University, he learned that an adjunct professor lost a child that day.

When Alfano became dean at the Farrington College of Education a year ago, his desire to start a program to equip leaders with the tools to handle and prevent traumatic situations was stronger than ever. “We want to really impact change,” Alfano said. “This is very important.”

The response from faculty and colleagues around the state has been positive. “The interest in this program is there,” Alfano said. The program itself couldn’t be more aligned with SHU’s mission, he added, which states: “Sacred Heart University embraces a vision for social justice and educates students in mind, body and spirit to prepare them personally and professionally to make a difference in the global community.”

Visit for additional information.


Holyoke Community College and Westfield State University announce nursing program partnership

Officials from Holyoke Community College and Westfield State University today signed a dual admission agreement that streamlines the process for students who want to continue their nursing educations at Westfield after earning an associate degree in nursing at HCC.

The RN-to-BSN completion program partnership was announced during a ceremony at HCC’s Center for Health Education on Jarvis Avenue, home to the college’s RN (registered nurse) and LPN (licensed practical nursing) programs and medical simulation center.

“We’re delighted to be here today and excited about this new venture to expand our existing collaboration with HCC to offer a streamlined, efficient pathway to a bachelor of science in nursing degree for HCC students,” said Westfield State University President Ramon S. Torrecilha. “This is important because it underscores the values of both institutions – our commitment to accessibility and our commitment to affordability.”

By granting automatic admission, the new agreement simplifies the application process for HCC nursing students who want to earn a BSN at Westfield – and can also significantly reduce the cost for that degree.

“We already have a really strong partnership with Westfield State and this is an opportunity to enhance that partnership,” said HCC President Christina Royal, “and it’s all for the sake of our students, who need and want easier options as they move from their two-year studies to their four-year studies. Many of our students prefer Westfield State, so we want to make that transfer process as seamless as possible.”

Officials said the new program will consist mostly of online coursework with limited on-campus requirements.

Applications are now being accepted for fall 2019 enrollment.

According to the agreement, graduates of HCC’s associate degree program can transfer up to 90 course credits into the BSN degree program at Westfield. HCC students need 72 credits to complete the requirements for their associate degree in nursing.

“The total cost of the 30 nursing degree credits for the completion program is $10,800, making the program one of the most cost-effective of its kind in the area,” said Shelley Tinkham, dean of the College of Graduate and Continuing Education at Westfield State.

Full-time students can complete the program as quickly as one year; students can also opt to complete the program on a part-time basis in 24 months.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 15 percent by 2026, significantly faster than the average for all occupations.

Torrecilha said nursing professionals with BSN degrees will remain in high demand for the foreseeable future.

“This latest collaboration emphasizes both institutions’ commitment to growing this high-demand segment of the workforce, underscoring our mutual concern and interest in preparing future generations of nursing professionals,” he said.

Royal cited a recent report, the “Pioneer Valley Labor Market Blueprint,” that identified health sciences as a priority sector for western Massachusetts.

“It’s one of the economic engines that drive our region,” said Royal, “and so for us to stay focused on providing opportunities like these that are going to lead to vibrant jobs in this community is just going to bolster that sector of the economy.”