At St. Edward's students are encouraged to cultivate both the heart and the mind during their Hilltop experience. Three students shared how academic opportunities, experiential learning and our community, fueled their passion to explore different types of research. 

Student, Emmanuel Epau, poses in front of the Bill Munday School of Business

Emmanuel Epau ’24, Business Administration

His journey to St. Edward’s:

Epau is the university’s first Moreau Scholar from Holy Cross Lake View school in Jinja, Uganda. Because of the pandemic and visa-processing delays, he spent his freshman year studying remotely, persevering despite the nine-hour time difference and a week when the country’s internet was cut off. 

When research changes direction:

As the winner of a Portz Interdisciplinary Fellowship from the National Collegiate Honors Council, Epau returned to Uganda last summer to research social media use in rural Africa. But Epau, who grew up in a city, discovered that rural Ugandans didn’t use social media because they could not afford smartphones. He returned to St. Edward’s even more committed to using his education to help Uganda. “I want to create more opportunities and chances back home,” he says. 

Gianna Ligotino ’23, Philosophy and Catholic Studies

The mind and the heart:

Ligotino helped Campus Ministry restructure its Pierle Scholar position, an opportunity for a student to research “respect life” issues with the guidance of a mentor.

An independent study:

Her thesis examines the philosophical and political context for two 19th-century realist art groups — the Macchiaioli of Italy and the Peredvizhniki of Russia. Although they were responding to different political realities, both used art to advocate for social change.

Passion and pragmatism:

Her research and internships introduced her to an array of careers in art. “At St. Edward’s, I’ve been in a community that supports pursuing whatever you’re passionate about,” she says. “I’ve found that being pragmatic doesn’t mean that you have to abandon your passions.”

Student, Gianna Ligotino, poses in Holy Cross Hall

Student, Oscar Cárdenas Muedano

Oscar Cárdenas Muedano ’24, Biology

At home in the lab:

Cárdenas is conducting neuroscience research in the lab of Professor of Biological Sciences Andrea Holgado, whose team manipulates mutations in C. elegans, a microscopic roundworm with some structural resemblances to humans, to learn about neurodegenerative disease development in people. “Research has helped me to actually think like a scientist,” he says.

On the air:

Cárdenas has his own show on Topper Radio, the student-run station. It’s a mix of whatever music he’s listening to that week — be it punk, jazz or Björk — and commentary about the songs and bands.

A student and a teacher:

Cárdenas works as a supplemental instructor, leading review sessions and offering extra help to students in Organic Chemistry. He says SIs have supported him through tough science courses in the past, and he’s glad for the chance to encourage other students. “It’s a different perspective to think of the class not as a student, but as a teacher or tutor, where you’re helping others understand,” he says.

By Robyn Ross