The Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department is proud to be called home to some of the most outstanding undergraduate students in higher education. These students display a high level of dedication, not only in furthering their education but in their desire to be on the frontlines of scientific discovery.
Meet Caitlyn Serafin, a senior from Chester, New Jersey, majoring in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. From a young age, Caitlyn was excited to attend her science classes, as she loved learning everything from cells, to chemical reactions, to what makes a ball roll off the table. As she advanced in school, she never shied away from laboratory time and was always eager to put on her safety goggles, roll up her sleeves and get to work.
Caitlyn is fortunate to have parents who support her science interests, including a father whose passion led him to a career as a biomedical engineer. “My dad always pushed me to get involved in his field,” said Caitlyn. “My parents signed me up for the science fair every year in my town and I always enjoyed it!”
Since the age of 11, Caitlyn has dreamed of becoming a dentist. As a child, she underwent several facial traumas and dental procedures such as wearing a fake tooth, braces twice, the removal of a benign tumor, a problematic wisdom teeth surgery, and multiple stitches. Instead of turning her away from dentistry, these experiences elevated her drive to become a person who can help others who face the same difficulties she endured. “I often was very embarrassed to smile, so I wanted to become that person who makes someone feel good about their smile,” says Caitlyn.
In preparing for one’s dreams, it is crucial to start by building a strong foundation. Caitlyn knew that Penn State was the perfect university for her to develop and grow, not only as a student, but as a person. “I knew I wanted to attend a big football school with an excellent academic reputation and a strong pre-med/dental program,” said Caitlyn. After visiting several schools, each in different conferences, Penn State immediately grabbed her attention. “Its reputation and academic standing speak for itself,” said Caitlyn. “It had so much to offer with respect to student life, as well as a world-class alumni network.”
In addition to her rigorous course load, Caitlyn has been active in a wide range of student groups and organizations across Penn State. She has been involved with both the Biochemistry Society, and Pre-Dental Society since her first year as an undergraduate student. “I knew I wanted to join these societies to help me find outlets to help improve myself in both aspects,” said Caitlyn. “I also wanted to meet and develop relationships with fellow students that share similar interests.” Over the past three years, Caitlyn has served as Secretary of the Biochemistry Society, and Treasurer of the Pre-Dental Society. She has been elected, in 2020, to serve as the President for both the Biochemistry Society, and the Pre-Dental Society. “Under today’s circumstances, being the president of my societies is so different than what I ever imagined,” said Caitlyn. Her greatest focus for each organization is to maintain its members involvement as best as she can. At this time, due to COVID-19 guidelines, in-person meetings are not permitted, but Caitlyn is committed to providing each member the best experience possible.
Caitlyn is also involved in the student organization, ECLIPSE. ECLIPSE is a philanthropic, non-profit, special interest organization at Penn State which benefits THON. The organization’s main purpose is to raise funds and awareness for the fight against pediatric cancer. “THON is one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever been a part of and will always be close to my heart,” says Caitlyn. In 2020, ECLIPSE was recognized by THON for their efforts as the top fundraising organization.
In addition to the Biochemistry, and Pre-Dental Societies, and ECLIPSE, Caitlyn is involved with the business fraternity, Omega Chi Sigma (OXS). Established in March of 2018, OXS focuses on the interrelationship between the worlds of business and science, technology, engineering, and math, in order to help its members develop the skills necessary for success in any professional business setting. Initially apprehensive about joining the fraternity, Caitlyn has met some of her best friends through her involvement and has been able to take advantage of the business seminars and outlets OXS provides to its members. When asked if she would recommend others within the sciences to get involved, she responded saying, “Yes! It is a great way to meet other people that have different technical majors but also want to prepare themselves for the professional world.”
Outside of Penn State, Caitlyn has interned since she was 16 years old at Center for Dental-Facial Aesthetics (CDFA), a family-run dental practice near her hometown. Working after school, on weekends, and over spring, winter, and summer breaks, Caitlyn has assisted in numerous dental procedures such as fillings, Invisalign, and crowns. Before her internship, she never believed she would have the opportunity to be involved in these procedures until dental school. Through her internship, she been able to learn invaluable and critical skills in the operation of her own dental practice such as how to develop and maintain healthy dentist-patient relationships, front desk operations, patient scheduling, office management, patient payments and reimbursements, as well as interactions with insurance agencies.
Outside of her coursework, involvement in organizations, and her internship, Caitlyn loves to travel. She has already traveled to a number of countries such as Canada, England, Scotland, Ireland, Portugal, France, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Spain, Austria, and throughout the United States! One day, she plans to travel to Japan, to experience the people, the cities, and the beautiful landscapes that have matured over the course of a thousand years. “Although I have experienced and learned so much through my travels, I am truly humbled that I have only scratched the surface of what our country and world has to offer,” says Caitlyn. “There is so much more to explore, and I hope I can maintain traveling as one of my life’s goals.”
It is clear that Caitlyn has taken advantage of the opportunities that have been made available to her, both at Penn State and beyond, to better herself and prepare herself for her career as a dentist. Her roles and responsibilities, accompanied by hands-on experience, have taught her critical skills such as servant leadership, humility, the self-confidence needed to ask for help, and have elevated both her communication and time management skills to the next level. After graduation, Caitlyn plans to attend dental school where she will achieve her dream of becoming a dentist. She looks forward to the day when she has the clinical knowledge and skills to help people with their dental care. Equally important to her is the opportunity to be empathetic and caring to those patients who are hesitant and fearful of the dental chair, and work with them to ease their anxiety and develop the smile they have always wanted.
There is no doubt that the future is bright for Caitlyn, who is a wonderful example of what it means to say We Are Penn State!