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Student athlete Vinny D’Onofrio ’24 excelled in biology and chemistry at PLU

Student athlete Vinny D’Onofrio ’24 excelled in biology and chemistry at PLU

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Image: PLU Chemistry major Vinny D’Onofrio poses for his Senior Spotlight portrait, Friday, May 3, 2024, in the Rieke Science Center at PLU. (PLU Photo / Sy Bean)

June 4, 2024
By Fulton Bryant-Anderson ’23
PLU Marketing & Communications Guest Writer

Vinny D’Onofrio ’24 majored in biology and chemistry at PLU, played at nationals with the men’s soccer team, and prepared for a career in the medical field. D’Onofrio recently sat down with PLU News to discuss his PLU experience.

How did you learn about PLU? 

I played competitive soccer in high school,  and the coach at PLU, John Yorke, reached out to me. Yorke said, “I think you should keep playing soccer.” The opportunity to play soccer made me come here. 

How did soccer impact you? 

I think it helped me grow as a person. I gained confidence in myself that I did not think I had at times, because people around me provided that backbone.

Tell me about your two majors. 

I first started as just a biology major. I pursued pre-med classes. In my junior year, I took analytical chemistry, and the professor [Brian Naasz] said, “You are pretty good at this. Why don’t you take that plus year and stick around for next year and get the major too?”

Who are your mentors?

I would say Dr. [Tina] Saxowsky, she sparked what I was most interested in. Dr. [Matt] Smith was my first biology professor. Dr. [Andrea] Munro helped me get the classes aligned to pursue the chemistry degree.

What did you learn as a biology TA and chemistry stockroom worker?

As a TA, I found myself learning new ideas from students that I might not have thought of, on the same question I had a couple of years ago. I love working with Maryls [Nesset], she puts me on dish duty, but that is what I choose to do. It humbles you. If I did not do this, people would not be able to do their lab experiments. 

Tell me about your interest in medical school.

When I was a kid, I thought my pediatrician was the nicest person in the world and cared so much about me and my health. That is something I want to do, help out and do whatever I can to make sure that people are healthy. 

Did anyone in your family influence this?

My grandpa is a dentist and my mom is a dental hygienist. They work together. They showed me how to be professional and be someone who can take care of patients. 

Is there a story that stands out? 

It happens every six months. My little sister and I get our teeth cleaned by our mom. We argue over who starts first and we help out our mom: we hand her stuff, and push buttons for the X-rays while we are both taking turns in the chair. 

What did you learn in your two lab-based internships?

Seattle Children’s showed me what goes on in research while looking for protein interactions. At RAIN Incubator we are trying to turn rhizobia into a certain type of soil bacteria. It is taking me down the direction if getting a PhD would be of interest to me.

What is the first thing you are doing after commencement?

Studying for my MCAT. I know, it does not sound like the most exciting thing ever. I want to make sure I get everything done so I can start the next chapter of my life. 

Anything else you want to share?

I think the friends [I met] along the way were some of the most important experiences. And, I think making that connection: if something is not in the cards for me at the moment, it is not the end of the world. I like knowing that things can change, things happen.