Press Release July 17, 2019

The 2019 JAX College Scholarship program supports local high school students

jax college scholarship
Lisa Debany, Joanna Idrovo, and JAX Program Director of STEM & Undergraduate Education Sarah Wojiski (left to right) at Torrington High School.

The Jackson Laboratory (JAX) is excited to announce the recipients of its 2019 JAX College Scholarship: Shannon O’Roak of Exeter, Maine; Joanna Idrovo of Torrington, Connecticut; and Monserath Mendoza of Sacramento, California.

The Jackson Laboratory College Scholarship Program annually awards three $10,000 scholarships – one to a student from Maine, one to a student from Connecticut, and one to a student from Sacramento County, California. The scholarships are awarded to students who aspire to pursue careers in research or medicine, thus supporting the lab’s mission to discover precise genomic solutions for disease, and with financial need.

2019 Maine JAX College Scholarship awardee: Shannon O’Roak

JAX Program Director of STEM & Undergraduate Education Michael McKernan, Shannon O’Roak, and Dexter Science Teacher & Chair Alyson Saunders at Dexter High School.

Shannon O’Roak will utilize the JAX College Scholarship at the University of New England where she will study health/exercise sciences with a concentration in pre-physical therapy.  After University of New England, she intends to pursue a doctorate in physical therapy to help patients recovering from traumatic physical injuries.

“The feeling I gain from helping others and knowing I’ve made an impact on them is one thing that makes my life complete. This is something I always want to be a part of my life, so I have chosen a career path that will allow me to help people,” says O’Roak. “This scholarship will help me pursue my career goals because it will aid me in paying for college.”

O’Roak, from Exeter, Maine, is a 2019 graduate of Dexter Regional High School. She was her class Valedictorian on top of being a member of the National Honor Society, a member of the soccer team, and a student representative to the local school board.

At Dexter Regional High School, O’Roak studied genomics coursework through JAX’s Teaching the Genome Generation program. She also participated in the 2019 Maine State Science Fair, organized by JAX and the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance, where her project “Dreams vs. Memory” earned her a scholarship to the University of New England.

2019 Connecticut JAX College Scholarship awardee: Joanna Idrovo

Idrovo will utilize the JAX College Scholarship at Amherst College where she will study biochemistry, with the goal of becoming a biomedical researcher focused on genetic engineering.

Idrovo, from Torrington, Conn., is a 2019 graduate of Torrington High School and will be a first-generation college student. She has a passion for science, which was displayed in her two-year participation in the ExpoFest Next Generation Science Challenge, her role as Torrington High School’s Science Club secretary, and her job as lab assistant for Torrington High School biology teacher Lisa Debany. She was also the recipient of the Torrington High School 2019 Science Award.

Outside of research, Idrovo is an active member of the Connecticut Mayor’s Youth Council and organized a youth advocacy club to address underage tobacco use. As part of this initiative, she spoke at the state capital to advocate for increasing the legal age of tobacco use to 21.

“Joanna’s ability to excel academically, successfully participate in numerous extracurricular activities, and also work part time is commendable. I believe that Joanna will be successful in anything she decides to accomplish,” says Debany.

2019 California JAX College Scholarship awardee: Monserath Mendoza

Monserath Mendoza in the Karen Pepper lab at UC Davis Institute for Regenerative Cures.

Mendoza will utilize the JAX College Scholarship while attending the University of California Davis (UC Davis) as a first-generation college student. She will study biological sciences to pursue her career goal of performing stem cell biomedical research.

Mendoza, from Sacramento, is a 2019 graduate of Sheldon High School. She was a member of the Sheldon High School Biotechnology Academy, a rigorous 4-year program focused on lab skills and research experience. She also attended the summer program at UC Davis Institute for Regenerative Cures to study the treatment of Sanfilippo Syndrome in the Karen Pepper lab. While there, she received first place in the 2017 Teen Biotech Challenge at UC Davis for designing and constructing a website about the history of HIV and the virus’ application towards gene therapy.

“As I get more exposure to the world of research and biomedicine, I’ve realized that many diseases are often overlooked,” says Mendoza. “More specifically, diseases that are not well-known in the public eye are therefore not researched enough—for example, the Sanfilippo Syndrome, often referred to as childhood Alzheimer’s. I wish to be a representative of people who feel as though they don’t have anyone on their side. I want them to know that research is on the way to help better the lives of millions,” says Mendoza.