Dani Wilder, a December 2020 graduate, who majored in the biochemistry track of biology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, has been awarded the 2021 Ralph S. Quatrano Prize.
Established through a generous donation by Katherine Day Reinleitner, the Quatrano Prize is awarded to the thesis showing greatest evidence of creativity in design, research methodology or broader scientific implications. The award is given in honor of Ralph Quatrano, the Spencer T. Olin Professor Emeritus and former chair of biology.
Wilder was nominated by her major advisor and Bio 500 mentor Joseph Jez, Spencer T. Olin Professor of Biology and Department Chair.
In his nomination letter, Jez said “Dani's Bio500 project to develop and test the "Precision Patch" was truly distinctive and unique, as well as entirely built on her intellectual contributions. It is Dani's genuinely original approach to both her senior thesis and entire undergraduate education that continually created new directions that distinguishes Dani and makes her an excellent nominee for this prize, which aims to recognize a nominee's creativity. She is an ideal example of a serial academic entrepreneur.”
Instead of a traditional laboratory research project that forms the basis of Bio200/500, Dani wanted to combine the development of a product, including its construction and testing in the lab, and a business plan around that product. Her idea was to construct an over-the-counter patch kit – Precision Patch - that allows a consumer to conveniently and inexpensively test for skin sensitivity to cosmetics in their home. Before last summer's shutdown of labs because of COVID-19, Dani was able to complete her work, successfully test her prototype, write a senior thesis in the format of an SBIR proposal, and was selected as a finalist in the spring 2020 Skandalaris Center Venture Competition.
Dani, upon notice of receiving the award said “Winning this award means the world to me. I have always strived through my undergrad to not just learn Biology, but to understand how to apply it into the real world. A lot of that has meant pushing boundaries, being innovative, and learning what it means to be interdisciplinary – ideals I know Dr. Ralph Quatrano upholds. Overall, I am honored to receive this award in his name,” Dani said.
Dani will receive the award during a virtual biology awards ceremony in May.