A Life in Biochemistry: Dr. Julie Senecoff Shares Her Passion with Manor College Students
Dr. Julie Senecoff, the Program Director of Pre-Health Care programs at Manor College, finds the ‘light bulb moments’ most enjoyable when working with students.
Teaching over Zoom is a tough task. That obstacle wasn’t the toughest during COVID for Dr. Julie Senecoff. She missed the sense of community created by seeing students on campus every day.
“It’s harder to build a community when you’re not in the same room,” Dr. Senecoff said. “Even if you’re all in the same Zoom session, it’s not the same thing.”
This Spring, she saw a bit of light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. Dr. Senecoff ran into a group of students on campus celebrating their acceptance into Manor College’s Dental program. She knew the students from prerequisite classes, but hadn’t seen them in a large group in person.
“I felt so happy for them,” Dr. Senecoff said. “I do think that’s a big part of what makes us different from other colleges, you really do get to know the students. That day felt like we were a community again.”
Dr. Senecoff’s interest in biochemistry came while studying pre-medicine in college. Freshmen at the university took two required semesters of chemistry. A few weeks of classes changed her career path.
“I had this unbelievable teacher and I thought, ‘Maybe I like this better,’” Dr. Senecoff said.
Biochemistry is amazing, she says, because you have to follow the rules of chemistry. In a biological system, things are more refined and no matter how much you study it, you’ll never know it all.
“That’s what Science is,” Dr. Senecoff said. “You can support a hypothesis, but you can’t always prove everything. That’s why I like it, you’ll never know it all.”
In 1987, Dr. Senecoff and her husband moved to Georgia and she found a job at a university research lab. While at the lab, she began recording textbooks to audio for blind and dyslexic students.
“It was a very interesting challenge,” Dr. Senecoff said. “It’s not like reading a novel. You have to think about how you would explain it to students and it felt like you were sort of teaching it.”
After moving to Pennsylvania in 2002, Dr. Senecoff began teaching at Manor College as an adjunct professor. She’s currently the Program Director of Health Science programs at the institution.
Over time, she’s seen hundreds of students go on to careers in the medical industry. This includes three Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship recipients. Of the 24,000 students who apply yearly, only the top 20% become semi-finalists. Only about 40 receive the award nationally each year.
“I always tell the students, ‘You succeeded because you succeeded, I’m here to facilitate the course,’” Dr. Senecoff said. “I can give them the tools, but it’s up to the students to use them. It’s encouraging to see these students going out to great places.”
Her favorite students to teach are the freshmen and sophomores at Manor College.
“It’s rewarding when you see them have a light bulb moment,” Dr. Senecoff said. “Something clicks and they start working harder, start asking more questions. They take ownership. In those early years, they build critical thinking skills and view education as a collaborative experience.”
Entering her 18th year, Dr. Senecoff finds motivation in the progress she sees her students make.
“Our job at Manor is to prepare these students and give them the tools to succeed in the real world,” Dr. Senecoff said. “As long as I can still do the job well and offer something to the students, that’s what keeps me coming back.”
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