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While most college students are decompressing from classes or searching for summer work, Trustee Scholar Matthew Pennisi ’07 (Schuylkill Haven, Pa.) is conducting research for Divers Alert Network (DAN).

Pennisi, a biology major and one of eight students in the nation selected for the DAN internship, had one week after finals to prepare for the medical program. From May 23 to Aug. 20, he is collecting data for Project Dive Exploration and studying the effects of ear barotraumas and seasickness at Discovery Diving in Beaufort, N.C.

“I would like to contribute my time and experience by promoting dive safety,” he says. “I look forward to meeting and learning from elite scientists in hyperbaric medicine at Duke University who are willing to share their knowledge and experience with me. My dedication to DAN’s mission will enhance the diving experience of others by promoting safety awareness and the importance of following proper protocol.”

He first became interested in DAN after researching the risks of recreational scuba diving for a class. Pennisi was surprised to find that data on diving incidences and fatalities were unorganized and lacking.

Until 1999, the collection of diving accident data did not record specific information about dives resulting in injury and provided no information about safe dives. As a result, DAN, a nonprofit medical and research organization dedicated to the safety and health of recreational scuba divers, has been collecting data for a program called Project Dive Exploration, which seeks to “record more than 1 million dive profiles in order to produce statistically accurate analyses of dive profiles, diver characteristics, and diver behavior.”

A Project Dive Exploration participant last summer, Pennisi hopes to eventually transfer this experience into a career as a physician specializing in hyperbaric medicine, which relates to medical issues stemming from pressures higher than normal atmospheric pressure.

“What I hope to obtain by participating in DAN’s internship is the ability to be a positive influence to both the scientists conducting research in hyperbaric medicine and the divers with whom I can share my passion for safe diving,” he says.

Pennisi volunteers through Lafayette’s Landis Community Outreach Center with Kids in the Community, an after-school program that provides a fun, safe, and educational environment for children living in Easton Housing Authority homes, and is a certified “Canine Good Citizen and Therapy Dog Handler.” He participates in intramural basketball and was a member of the men’s rugby club. Pennisi graduated from Nativity B.V.M. High School.

Selected from among Lafayette’s top applicants, Trustee Scholars like Pennisi have distinguished themselves through exceptional academic achievement in high school. They receive from Lafayette an annual minimum scholarship of $7,500 ($8,000 effective with the Class of 2009) or a grant in the full amount of their demonstrated need if the need is more than $7,500.

Categorized in: Academic News