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Skeath Scholars award helps biology student discover a passion for immunology

Skeath Scholars award helps biology student discover a passion for immunology

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As a first-year student, Carter Branigan ’24 started at Lycoming knowing he belonged somewhere in the sciences, but narrowing down the field proved a bit trickier. A moment of clarity arrived when he was introduced to immunology in Biology 347. Armed with a Skeath Scholars award, Branigan set out to find an enhanced academic experience that could help him fully commit to the field.

During the past several years, Lycoming has deepened its long-standing commitment to STEM programs and facilities to help ensure our nation’s youth are prepared to research, analyze, and solve some of the complex challenges of today and tomorrow. The Frances Knights Skeath STEM Scholars Program advances these ideals by awarding merit-based scholarships to select students planning to major in a STEM field. Skeath Scholars are awarded a stipend of up to $5,000 in support of a STEM-based enhanced academic experience; housing in the first-year STEM Residential Community; enhanced career advising; and mentors.

After exploring various enhanced experiences, such as international internships and faculty-led research opportunities, Branigan, now a cell and molecular biology major, decided on the American Association of Immunologists (AAI) Advanced Course in Immunology in Boston during his summer break.

Branigan said he became enthralled with immunology, “There is so much potential to manipulate individual components of the immune system to develop biological therapeutics that combat human disease. The AAI course exposed me to cutting-edge research in the field and helped provide a strong foundation to understand the science of the immune system.

“The 10-day course and travel to Boston was not inexpensive, but my Skeath scholarship made the entire experience possible – something that would not have been feasible otherwise. As one of the only undergraduate students in the course, I met graduate students, post-docs, and professors who were eager to share their experiences with me. Their advice was invaluable, and as a result, I have decided to pursue the MD-PhD route after I receive my bachelor’s degree.”

After the conference, Branigan realized that he is most interested in work that enables him to manipulate the immune system to fight diseases such as cancer. “Biological therapeutics are at the forefront of human medicine. Pieces of the immune system can be rearranged like those in a LEGO set to develop powerful cancer treatments. I want to use this philosophy to bring innovation into oncology.”

“Lycoming and my faculty have been instrumental in helping me pinpoint my passion. The small class sizes have allowed me to receive individualized attention, and the faculty go out of their way to help me understand complex subjects. The opportunity to perform undergraduate research with faculty in the biology and chemistry departments has been integral in finding my current path,” he said.

But for Branigan, it’s not all about his studies. In his spare time, he enjoys playing guitar and making music with others on campus. “The local art scene is more than I thought it would be,” he said. “Music and art are a wonderful escape, and the bustling scene downtown has been a real good time!”

Eligible students interested in the Skeath STEM Scholars Program must apply and be admitted to Lycoming College by February 1. Upon admission, eligible students will receive an invitation from Lycoming’s president to interview. More information on the Skeath STEM Scholars Program at Lycoming College is available at

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