A profile of Jonathan Salandra '14 is part I of The Class of 2014, a series on the academic and extracurricular interests of graduating seniors.
Hometown: Harrison, N.Y.
Academic Major: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Raised in a family of accountants, Jonathan Salandra '14 arrived four years ago at Franklin & Marshall College weighing what field of study to pursue in his college career.
After immersing himself in the liberal arts curriculum at F&M, he found it.
His studies in chemistry, in particular organic chemistry, convinced Salandra that medicine was where he belonged.
"After that class I just fell in love with science," Salandra said.
Before heading off to medical school in fall 2015, the senior plans to take a year off to work as a medical scribe for Urgent Care Centers in New York City. Salandra said he wants to build on the practical experience he gained as a student at F&M.
"This position really gives me insight into what goes on in emergency care centers," Salandra said. "A medical scribe goes into the patient's room with the doctor to take notes. You also take preliminary tests of the patient such as their blood pressure."
Standing 6 feet, 6 inches, Salandra ended a strong F&M athletic career as forward for the Diplomats' basketball team this year. He earned a third post-season All-Centennial Conference award and ranked first on the team in scoring (14.9 points per game). Within the conference, he ranked fifth in scoring, second in minutes played (34.7), and fourth in rebounds per game (7.5).
The combination of academics and athletics drew Salandra to F&M. When he visited the College as a high school junior, basketball coach Glenn Robinson, and former baseball coach Adam Taylor, showed him around and discussed the student-athlete approach at F&M.
"They were a big influence on me coming here," the senior said.
Salandra played baseball as a first-year student, but decided to keep to one sport in order to sharpen his focus on academics.
"I think playing a sport has actually helped me in the classroom, and the academics here helped me in playing sports," Salandra said. "There is a similar principle in sports and academics -- you get knocked down, you get back up."
His academic studies include research he is working on with Professor of Chemistry Kenneth Hess. The project, "The Chemical Synthesis of D-erythro-Sphingosine and GM3 Ganglioside," is funded by a Howard Hughes Medical Institute grant.
Observed in the Amish population, the cellular system in children cannot make GM3 because of a rare genetic disorder that leads to seizures, random motions, and other epileptic episodes starting around age 2 months, Salandra said.
"The majority of these kids end up passing away, tragically, within two years of life," he said.
The project involves synthesizing GM3 and administering it in a therapy to correct the disorder, Salandra said. "We're very close to synthesizing it."
His research included visiting the Clinic for Special Children in Strasburg, Pa., which primarily serves Amish and Mennonite communities, to observe children who suffer from this disorder.
Like his other F&M-backed experiences, such as shadowing surgeons, Salandra said his work on this disorder confirmed his post-graduate choice.
"It shows me there is need for doctors," Salandra said.