The College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics recognized the work of students, faculty, alumni, and community members and presented scholarships to two students at its Women in Mathematics, Science, and Technology program during Research Appreciation Week, April 2.

Pathbreakers: Markovich '74, McMurdy '78, and Simmons

In addition to a poster session recognizing the work of some 30 female students and faculty from the college, the event included a panel discussion featuring three women who have built careers in mathematics and science: Maria Markovich '74 (photo, right), a pharmaceuticals consultant; Sue McMurdy '78 (photo, center), an executive at First Commonwealth Financial Corp.; and Anne Simmons (photo, left), a longtime school administrator.


Markovich earned a B.S. in Chemistry from IUP and an M.S. in business management from Stevens Institute of Technology. Her career has spanned working at small environmental engineering firms to holding leadership positions in analytical research and pharmaceuticals with two worldwide companies. Before her retirement from industry, she worked for 13 years at Johnson & Johnson. In 2012, she formed her own consulting firm, Analytical Advantage Consulting, which reviews worldwide compendia of drug needs.

McMurdy earned an Applied Mathematics degree from IUP. She is executive vice president and chief information officer at First Commonwealth Financial Corp. in Indiana. She is responsible for all data processing and technology systems for the corporation and oversees the network infrastructure, security systems, facilities and real estate for more than 115 locations in 15 counties in Pennsylvania.

In addition, McMurdy leads the operational and support processes for a comprehensive line of banking, insurance, trust and investment products and services. McMurdy co-founded First Commonwealth for Women, a guiding coalition for the company with a mission of creating a supportive and rewarding work environment for First Commonwealth's nearly 1,300 female employees.

Simmons holds a bachelor's degree in secondary biology education from the State University of New York at Oswego, master's degrees in science education from Columbia University and the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and a doctorate in education from the University of Rochester. She served as the assistant superintendent of the Greater Latrobe School District and as director of curriculum, instruction and assessment at the Apollo-Ridge School District.

She has many years of experience as a superintendent of schools, director of curriculum and instruction, and school principal. She has won several awards for teaching, including the Educator of Distinction Award from the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation and Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation.

Chemistry Alumni Research Fund Award and Patricia Hilliard Robertson '85 Memorial Scholarship Recipients

Two scholarships were presented to students. The first Chemistry Alumni Research Fund Award was presented to Elyse Kleist, a junior Chemistry major and member of Alpha Chi Sigma professional chemistry fraternity at IUP. The award, which supports undergraduate research, is funded by donations from Markovich and other chemistry alumni.

The Patricia Hilliard Robertson '85 Memorial Scholarship was awarded to Rebecca Beadling (photo, center), a junior Biology and Chemistry double major. The award was presented by Dr. Keith Hilliard (photo, left) and Ilse Hilliard (photo, right), brother and mother of the late Patricia Hilliard Robertson.


Robertson, of Homer City, was a physician and pilot who completed the astronaut candidate program. Before she died from injuries suffered in a plane crash in 2001, Robertson was serving as a support astronaut for crew members aboard the International Space Station.

As part of her award, Beadling will conduct research with Chemistry professor Justin Fair on the use of chromatography in undergraduate organic chemistry courses and how it has replaced older identification and quantitative methods.

As part of her research in Biology, she is exploring the effects of copper as a stressor in the life history and physiological characteristics of multiple generations of zebra fish. She is also conducting research in chemistry on cobalt doped compounds and dilute magnetic semiconductors. She will continue this research at the University of Pennsylvania during the summer.

Beadling is a dean's list student and provost scholar and a recipient of the Dean's Opportunity Scholarship and the Scholarship for Creating Opportunities in Applied Mathematics.

— University Communications Office