Outstanding Grad: Dillon Donaghy, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

Dillon Donaghy
Dillon Donaghy

Dillon Donaghy could never have imagined that his research at Colorado State University might come in handy during a global pandemic.

For the last few years, the up-and-coming scientist – who will graduate this month with a bachelor of science degree in microbiology – has been studying how certain diseases affect blood clotting in dogs. He’s worked in the lab of Christine Olver, a professor of clinical pathology in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

Now, with reports that the COVID-19 coronavirus may cause blood clots and stroke in younger patients, Donaghy has been reading up on the latest science, with an eye toward launching a new research project with Olver.

“We hope to start looking to see which proteins from the virus are causing this blood clotting,” he said.

Donaghy has been described as a born leader, and he’s been involved in numerous organizations on campus, including the CVMBS College Council and the Microbiology Student Association. He’s served as a student ambassador for the college and a peer mentor. Donaghy has also published his research in scientific journals and has presented his work at numerous conferences.

Looking back over his experience at CSU, he said that his education abroad at the University of Reading in England in summer 2018 stands out. Donaghy conducted similar research to what he’d been doing at CSU, with a focus on studying certain proteins in platelets that may contribute to coagulation.

Being immersed in a new culture really helped him grow, he said.

“I learned how to adapt to new scenarios and work in new conditions with people who were very different and very diverse,” he explained. “It was also just a blast.”

Olver said Donaghy has become an indispensable part of her lab. “He has two first-author publications and is the main contributor to a collaborative research project studying malaria,” she said. “He is one of the most talented students I have worked with.”

Donaghy is currently applying for lab positions at the National Institutes of Health and plans to go to graduate school.

The Wiggins, Colorado, native is the recipient of a scholarship from the Williams Family Foundation, which provides support for students seeking careers in the medical realm. In May 2019, Donaghy was named a Goldwater Scholar, an annual competition established to encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, natural sciences and engineering.

What advice would he give to incoming freshman?

“Don’t be afraid to talk to people and take chances on things,” he said. “I did a lot less my freshman year and I was terrified to talk with faculty members. Then, I met some other students that really changed my outlook and personality quite a bit.”

Those students encouraged him to “take chances,” which led to the position in Olver’s lab and the study abroad experience.

“I took that advice from a friend at the end of my freshman year, and it made my college experience so much better.”