Eberly College of Science names student marshals

April 05, 2012

Zachary Hostetler of Garnet Valley, Pa., and Jennifer Stella of Boalsburg, Pa., will be honored as the student marshals for the Eberly College of Science during Penn State's spring commencement ceremonies on May 5 at the University Park campus. Hostetler's faculty escort will be Song Tan, a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Stella's faculty escort will be Loida Escote Carlson, an assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.


Hostetler, who will graduate from Penn State with a 4.0 grade-point average and a bachelor's degree in biochemistry and molecular biology, also is enrolled in the Schreyer Honors College and he has been on the Dean's List every semester while at Penn State. Hostetler's awards and scholarships include a Schreyer Academic Excellence Scholarship, two Eberly College of Science academic scholarships -- the Tershak Scholarship and the Vinezie Scholarship, a President's Freshman Award, a President Sparks Award, two Evan Pugh Scholar Awards, a University Undergraduate Research Funds award, and a Summer Discovery Grant.

During his years at Penn State, Hostetler has focused on laboratory research involving X-ray crystallography -- a method used to model the atomic structure of proteins. In particular, he and his faculty escort Song Tan, a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, have been working on a research project dealing with improving protein crystallization, which is often one of the most difficult steps in X-ray crystallography. While certain proteins naturally form large, ordered crystals, some proteins resist crystallization attempts. Hostetler's approach involves fusing a "protein of interest" with a protein that is known to crystallize well so that this fusion protein will form crystals.

In addition to his scientific pursuits, Hostetler has served on the executive board of the Schreyer Honors College Student Council for several years. He also has represented the Schreyer Honors College Student Council and a Four Diamonds Family by dancing in Penn State's IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon -- an independent student-organized event that raises money to fight pediatric cancer.

Hostetler has volunteered as a Donor and Alumni Relations (DAR) captain for THON. As a DAR captain, his responsibilities included approaching companies for monetary donations, acting as a liaison to Penn State clubs and organizations to help them with fund-raising efforts, and establishing a system to track and analyze donation patterns. He also has volunteered for ATLAS, which is an organization devoted to raising money for THON and the Four Diamonds Fund. The Four Diamonds Fund is a Penn State Hershey organization that provides support for patients and families facing pediatric cancer.

After graduation, Hostetler plans to attend a combined doctor of medicine / doctoral program at either the University of Pennsylvania or Weill-Cornell Medical College in New York City. "I hope that attending a combined medical and graduate-degree program will allow me to combine my interests in human medicine and scientific research," Hostetler said. "Ultimately, I envision myself in academic medicine: conducting research, treating patients, and eventually teaching and training new physicians."

Hostetler also said he is truly honored to represent his Eberly College of Science colleagues at graduation. "This past year truly challenged the Penn State community." Hostetler said. "However, I believe it also was an opportunity for a troubled community to come together. Candlelight vigils and a record-breaking THON weekend marked the best of what Penn State has to offer. These memories, the ones that challenged us as a school and a community, will forever be a part of my Penn State experience."

Hostetler, who attended Garnet Valley High School, will be accompanied at graduation by his parents Robert and Lisa Hostetler, his sisters Lauren and Jenna Hostetler, and his grandfather John Hostetler.


Stella will graduate from Penn State with a 4.0 grade-point average and a bachelor's degree in biology with a genetics and developmental biology option, and a master of biotechnology degree. She is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Honors Society and she has been on the Dean's List every semester while at Penn State. Stella's awards and scholarships include a Mary A. Stiles Scholarship in Biological Sciences, a Patil-Taillie Scholarship for work in environmental statistics, an Evan Pugh Scholar Award for being in the top 0.5 percent of her graduating class, a President Sparks Award, a President's Freshman Award, and a C. Melville, Jr. and Kenneth Barr Scholarship. 

During the summer after her freshman year, Stella worked with Katriona Shea in the Department of Biology where she conducted research on the ecology and the control of invasive species. She analyzed the dispersal methods and pollination of two species of thistles and investigated the impact of biological control agents. After her sophomore year and continuing until the end of her senior year, Stella worked with Joan Richtsmeier in the Department of Anthropology, where she focused on diseases of the human skull, mainly craniosynostosis. She used computed tomography (CT) scans to locate certain landmarks on the skulls in order to analyze skull shape and to compare the effects of different diseases. This research led to Stella's Schreyer College honors thesis, which explored asymmetric skull diseases and how symmetry and asymmetry develop in the body.

During her senior year, Stella completed a cooperative-research program in GlaxoSmithKline's Antibacterial Research Unit. At GlaxoSmithKline, Stella worked to identify potential antibacterial drugs using molecular-biology techniques. During this time, she also completed a research project on a naturally occurring compound that could be used to develop a new antibiotic. Currently, Stella is working as a graduate student with Blair Hedges in the Department of Biology, where she researches the biodiversity of different species in order to promote conservation efforts. In Hedges's lab, Stella uses microbiology techniques to determine the gene sequences of various lizard species to analyze their biodiversity in different areas of the world.

Stella has served as the secretary of the Phi Beta Kappa Lambda student organization, and as a volunteer at Biotech 2010's Innovation Corridor -- a symposium in which scientists outlined innovative research taking place at universities and at early-stage companies. She has been a teaching assistant for Penn State's Organic Chemistry Instrument Room and a volunteer at Mount Nittany Medical Center. In addition, she travelled to Ecuador with the Hershey Medical Center Cardiac Group to assist doctors in heart surgery on children.

After completing her master's degree, Stella hopes to work as a researcher at a biotechnology company or a pharmaceutical company for a few years, after which time she will pursue another advanced degree.

Stella said that the Penn State faculty has shown her how important it is to be passionate about one's career and to share that passion with other people. "The head of my master's degree program and my faculty escort, Assistant Professor Loida Escote-Carlson, also showed me how important it is to think critically and to communicate well. I also have learned never to take anything for granted, and to make the most of my education and my future."

Stella, who attended State College Area High School, will be accompanied at graduation by her parents, Rocco and Elaine Stella; her brother Michael Stella, who currently is pursuing a degree at Penn State; and her fiancé Michael DiRaimo Jr., who graduated as a student marshal from Penn State in 2011.


  • Zachary Hostetler, left, and Jennifer Stella, right, will be honored as the student marshals for the Eberly College of Science during Penn State's spring commencement ceremonies.

    IMAGE: Penn State
Last Updated April 05, 2012