Brianna Bibel ’16 Wins Summer Fellowship at UCSF

May 29, 2015

Students and faculty often talk about the life-changing experiences that are a part of a Saint Mary’s education, and Brianna Bibel ’16 is no exception.

Bibel is one of 15 students who were awarded Summer Research Scholarships in 2014. The Summer Research Program, established in 1986, promotes excellence in undergraduate research by providing students with support to work alongside School of Science faculty on solving research problems.

In her work with Jeffrey Sigman, associate professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Bibel studied the enzyme neurolysin, which is involved in the activation and deactivation of chemical messages sent within and between cells in the form of small molecules called neuropeptides. Bibel says she hopes to one day to make findings that contribute to treatments, or even cures, for neurodegenerative diseases including Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s diseases.

Bibel's biggest takeaway from SRP: "I love working in the lab and want to incorporate laboratory research into my career."

She noted that her working relationship with Sigman helped her develop as a scientist. “Dr. Sigman is great about letting me talk through ideas with him and asking him lots of questions. The most important thing I learned in working with him specifically is how to be comfortable working independently. I truly believe that this level of independence is a very valuable skill that I would not be able to receive at a larger institution,” Bibel said.

Bibel added that her discoveries in the lab weren’t just scientific. “The most important personal discovery I made is that I love working in the lab and want to incorporate laboratory research into my career. Prior to the Summer Research Program, I was planning on becoming a clinical physician. However, I enjoyed research so much that my new goal is to pursue a joint M.D./Ph.D. and become a physician-scientist focused on researching neurodegenerative diseases,” Bibel said.

Bibel is on her way to such a career. Her summer research will continue in 2015 with a prestigious 10-week fellowship funded by Huntington’s Disease Society of America to research at the Gladstone Institute of Neurological Design of University of California San Francisco, where she will investigate changes that occur over time in the neurons of Huntington’s Disease patients.


Around 82% of eligible Saint Mary’s students are accepted into med school; that’s nearly double the national average. Learn more about our top-tier Science programs.