Meet Fresno State’s Sally Casanova Scholar for 2016-17

Annabelle Lolinco


Photo, from left: Cathleen Fagundes, Christy Xiong, Annabelle Lolinco and Professor Marnel Niles Goins at the recent Western State Communication Association conference in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Recent Fresno State graduate Annabelle Lolinco is enjoying the fruits of being a 2016-17 Sally Casanova Scholar, one of 74 CSU-wide and the only one from Fresno State this academic year.

The Sally Casanova Scholar Pre-Doctoral program is designed to increase the pool of potential faculty by supporting the doctoral aspirations of California State University students who have experienced economic and educational disadvantages.

Sally Casanova Scholars receive the following benefits:

  • Participation in a summer research experience program at a doctoral-granting institution to receive exposure to the world of research in your chosen field.
  • Visits to doctoral-granting institutions to explore opportunities for doctoral study.
  • Travel to a national symposium or professional meeting in your chosen field, other related activities such as membership in professional organizations and journal subscriptions.
  • Graduate school application and test fees.

Lolinco, who graduated in December with a dual major in communication and chemistry, recently returned from the Western State Communication Association conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, and will attend the American Chemical Society’s national meeting in San Francisco April 1-5.

“Western State was my first communication conference,” said Lolinco, a 2012 graduate of Fresno Unified’s Edison High School. “It was a great opportunity to explore a little bit more about what graduate studies in communication would look like.”

Lolinco is a first-generation college student in her family. She was also a Smittcamp Family Honors College scholarship recipient.

“My mother and I attended Fresno State at the same time for a while, but she had to leave for some personal reasons. I’m still the only one out of my siblings and me to be in college. My brother enlisted in the U.S. Army directly after high school and my sister is a senior at Clovis East High.”

Lolinco explained the “serendipitous” way in which she chose her interesting combination of majors – chemistry and communication:

“Chemistry was a fun puzzle, taking the small and creating a big picture. Chemists study the smallest building blocks of the universe and assemble answers creating materials we use every day,” she said. As for communication, “I enjoyed talking to all sorts of people and sharing time to understand their stories and I wanted to learn more about ways of communicating with people. It helped that there is this idea that science isn’t easily communicated to people … Little did I know I would be making a career out of studying that particular intersection.”

Lolinco is also a recipient of the Ronald E. McNair Scholar Program, a nationally recognized, federally funded program named after the physicist/astronaut who died in the Challenger space exploration.

The McNair Scholar Program reaches out to traditionally underrepresented students in graduate education and gives them tools and funds to prepare them for success in doctoral programs.

Lolinco completed two rounds of research under the McNair program.

The first was chemistry, developing a method to analyze trace metal concentrations in atmospheric particulate matter.

“Part of the air pollution are these microscope particles that induce oxidative stress in humans, which leaves us with radicals or extra negatively charged electrons on molecules that we need to diffuse. There are small traces of metals like copper in particulate matter that aid the creation of radicals, and so I worked on figuring out a way we could quantify the amount found in field samples we took. This evolved into being my honors project for the Chemistry Department Honors program.”

Her second project was in the communication field, doing a rhetorical criticism of the science Bill Nye, the science guy, communicated in “Bill Nye the Science Guy” and “The Eyes of Nye.”

“Both shows were science education programs, but had different audiences in mind – children and adults, respectively. I utilized rhetorical criticism methods of framing, narrative and metaphor to compare the shows to each other and against the literature of work behind science communication and the public engagement of science.”

Dr. Hillary Jones, one of Lolinco’s professors and her mentor, said Lolinco has been consulting this spring with an ASL interpreter who is working to refine how she talks with interpreters and advocates about how to aid students who are deaf/hard-of-hearing seeking to enter STEM careers.

“This is a prime example of why we need communication scholars who are fluent in the sciences,” Jones said. “Annabelle is a testament to the importance of placing the humanities and the STEM fields in conversation with one another. Her McNair research project (‘Talk Science to Me: A Case Study Across Bill Nye’s Audiences’) used humanistic, rhetorical methods to examine how Bill Nye communicates to the public about science. … Her background, with dual majors in chemistry and communication, inspired her to help scientists make science more accessible to non-expert audiences, such as policy-makers and the public. We need more scholars and citizens who can engage productively with science; we need more scientists who can communicate clearly with the public. Annabelle has the potential to help advance all of these goals.”

Lolinco doesn’t anticipate slowing down any, even with her undergraduate studies behind her.

“I’ll be keeping myself busy with projects. … My next step is waiting to hear back from the doctoral programs I applied to. I applied to both communication and chemistry doctorate programs. Ultimately, I will still be advocating, studying and understanding science communication.”

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The College of Arts and Humanities provides a diverse student population with the communication skills, humanistic values and cultural awareness that form the foundation of scholarship. The college offers intellectual and artistic programs that engage students and faculty and the community in collaboration, dialog and discovery. These programs help preserve, illuminate and nourish the arts and humanities for the campus and for the wider community.

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