UC Merced Connect: Graduate is Army strong on science

January 31, 2012 

As a chemistry teacher at Merced High School in 2004, Scott Seronello frequently told his students to keep working at their education and never give up their dreams. Then his students asked why he hadn't done that himself.

So he applied to UC Merced to pursue his dream of earning a Ph.D., which he did in 2010. From there, Seronello's path took an unexpected turn -- toward military research in the Army.

Working with professor Jinah Choi at UC Merced, Seronello studied the hepatitis C virus and its interactions with ethanol. Results from their work have been published in the journals PLoS One, the Journal of Biological Chemistry, and Free Radical Biology and Medicine.

As his graduate program wound down, Seronello considered his options. Many Ph.D. recipients accept postdoctoral positions until they can land tenure-track jobs -- but Seronello and his wife, Christina, had a toddler son and a daughter on the way, and the pay and benefits looked insufficient.

After a presentation on military careers at an academic meeting, he decided to pursue a research career in the military.

"I knew I'd made the right choice when my assignment officer rushed my paperwork to get my pregnant wife covered under insurance quickly," Seronello said. "And he delayed my Basic Officer Leaders Course until my daughter was 4 months old, so I wouldn't miss her first few months."

The family moved to Maryland, where Seronello now spends his workdays conducting experiments and supervising a team of soldiers.

Looking back on his time at UC Merced, Seronello recalled those who prepared him for his work, including Choi, then-interim Natural Sciences Dean Mike Colvin and Natural Sciences Graduate Programs Coordinator Carrie King.

"Dr. Choi and my committee (professors Henry Forman, David Ojcius and Miriam Barlow) taught me not only how to perform experiments, but how to plan them in order to answer the overriding experimental question," he said.

"(Colvin) made me much more comfortable with taking an atypical career path, and (King) taught me the importance of helping those you're there to support. This is an important skill in the Army, because you succeed best by supporting your soldiers."

Human Rights Film Series

The sixth annual UC Merced Human Rights Film Series will present a different documentary every Friday in February. All films will begin at 7 p.m. in the Classroom and Office Building, Room 105. They are free and open to the public.

The series begins this Friday with "Granito: How to Nail a Dictator." Part political thriller, part memoir, the 2010 film takes viewers through a haunting tale of genocide and justice that spans four decades.

Other films in the series include "Better This World" on Feb. 10, "This is My Land ... Hebron" on Feb. 17, and "The Price of Sex" on Feb. 24. The finale will include a special event with filmmaker Mimi Chakarova, whose documentary focuses on young Eastern European women who have been drawn into a world of sex trafficking and abuse.

For information, contact Professor Robin DeLugan at rdelugan@ucmerced.edu

UC Merced Connect is a collection of news items written by the university's Office of Communications. To contact the communications team, e-mail


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