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Getting It Done
Already accepted to medical school, Jason Mercando ’17 will spend the first half of summer participating in a new internship at the University of California, San Francisco, biochemistry lab of alumna Terumi Kohwi-Shigematsu ’71.
From when he was a youngster, Jason Mercando ’17 lived and breathed the sciences, thanks largely to growing up with parents who are chemists.
“Bring-your-child-to-work day was to go do fun experiments at work,” he says. “I’ve always been drawn to the sciences that way. I thought chemistry at first, then I thought chemical engineering, but I realized physics is not my thing. And then I really had an awesome AP biology teacher in high school so I was drawn to biology.”
The biology major and chemistry minor, with a concentration in biochemistry, has already been accepted to medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and is waiting to hear from the medical school at Penn State. A four-year member of the men’s swimming team at Washington College, Mercando is a Phi Beta Kappa inductee and three-time Centennial Conference Academic Honor Roll student. He’s also a Resident Assistant area director, a member of Kappa Alpha, a peer tutor for calculus and statistics, and a member of Gamma Sigma Epsilon, the national honors society in chemistry.
And true to form, he’s not slowing down much between graduating this spring and heading off to medical school in the fall. In May, he and Brynne Brouse ’18, another biochemistry student, are participating in a new internship in the lab of Terumi Kohwi-Shigematsu ’71 at the University of California, San Francisco, where they will participate in her studies into stem cells and chromatin research.
“Dr. Reynolds [Mindy Reynolds, associate professor of biology and co-chair of the Department of Biology] emailed me and said, ‘She’s looking for applicants, go to the career center, get the details,’ ’’ Mercando says. “So I did it as a backup for med school, and I got chosen to do it.” Along with doing cancer research in the lab, he’s excited about a few side trips. “I’m looking forward to seeing the Muir Wods, Big Sur, Yosemite. I was out there once when I was a lot younger and didn’t really appreciate it as much as I could.”
Mercando was recruited from high school to be on Washington College’s swimming team, where he won a bronze medal in the 400 freestyle relay at the 2016 Centennial Conference Championships and was the team’s second-fastest swimmer in 1650 freestyle in 2013-14. He acknowledges the workload wasn’t easy: “I got by on not very many hours of sleep because I had to be up every morning for swimming at 5:30,” he says. “But I’ve always had the discipline, I just get it done.”
During his summers he sought experience in his future career by volunteering, first at two emergency room departments near his hometown of Allentown, Pennsylvania, and the second summer as an EMT after spending a month getting his certification. He hopes to specialize in cardiology.
“I’ve grown up with a lot of heart issues in my family, stroke, heart attack, heart murmurs, bypass surgeries,” he says. “I learned about it at a young age. My friend only has three chambers in his heart, and they thought he wouldn’t live to age 18. He’s now 24. So I’ve grown up around it and it’s always been interesting to me, and the fact that a lot can be learned about the heart still, why it works the way it works, is also interesting.”
For his Senior Capstone Experience, he’s studying, on a cellular level, anaphylaxis—why certain people have acute allergic reactions to allergens like peanuts and bee stings—and why others have minor reactions or none at all.
Washington College has been everything he’d hoped, he says, particularly because of the attention paid to students by faculty, “and actually wanting to teach. It’s not like a large university where the teachers are there to do research and teaching is like their side job, practically. They care about the students here, they are willing to help—like Dr. Reynolds giving me the information about the internship and saying, ‘You should really apply to this,’ and then emailing me a second time, asking, ‘Did you apply?’ They actually follow through, and they helped me get on my feet and go with it.”