Self-Disciplined: LT Ashley (Sanford) Molinaro, USNR ’10

“From my experience, the best way to be seen and heard and get ahead is to lean in, raise your hand, speak up, and do the work.”

Ashley (Sanford) Molinaro ’10 majored in biology with the hope of one day becoming a Navy doctor. But at Norwich, she found her ambitions shifting from medicine to biological research, citing biology professor Karen Hinkle as a strong influence. “Dr. Hinkle was a great mentor and the reason why, after a bit of soul searching, I decided I wanted to pursue a PhD and focus on research,” Molinaro reflects. “She’s just someone that I wanted to emulate.”

Molinaro (right) attended the Experimental Biology annual meeting in April 2016. While there, she ran into her college mentor, Norwich biology professor Karen Hinkle.

Molinaro (right) attended the Experimental Biology annual meeting in April 2016. While there, she ran into her college mentor, Norwich biology professor Karen Hinkle.

For Hinkle, having students like Molinaro in the classroom is part of what makes her job so rewarding. “She not only had a great sense of humor and a love for science, but a great ability not to take things too seriously,” Hinkle says. “If she made a mistake, she was able to learn from it and just move on.”

In her senior year, Molinaro rose to the position of Battalion Commander of the Naval ROTC detachment. “I know a lot of people do big things on the Hill,” she says. “I was honored and flattered and unbelievably surprised that I had been chosen.” She commissioned into the Navy as a Surface Warfare Officer and was assigned to the USS Nitze, a destroyer based out of Norfolk, Virginia. After becoming warfare-qualified, she spent the next four years aboard the ship, completing two deployments. In 2015 she and her husband, a fellow Naval officer, had a daughter, which she calls one of the “all-time great experiences of my life.”

Molinaro is researching microbial pathogenesis and genetic modification as part of her PhD studies at Old Dominion University. (Courtesy of Ashley Molinaro ’10.)

Molinaro is researching microbial pathogenesis and genetic modification as part of her PhD studies at Old Dominion University. (Courtesy of Ashley Molinaro ’10.)

Amid all that, she enrolled in a PhD program at Old Dominion University with research interests in microbial pathogenesis and genetic modification, to name a few. “After going to some of the countries I’ve been to, I thought, I can really help. I could develop new mechanisms to treat some of these horrendous infections caused by drug-resistant bacteria.”

Molinaro left active duty in June 2016 to focus on her studies, but continues to serve in the Navy Reserves. Maintaining a balance between service, school, and family takes discipline.

“Sometimes I have to accept that not everything is going to get done, right away,” she says, unconsciously echoing Hinkle’s observation of her ability not to sweat the small stuff. “Sure, I’ll make all my necessary deadlines, but I’ve come to realize it’s okay to order takeout for dinner if it means spending a little more time with my daughter, to put off cleaning up the kitchen to read the journal article I skipped the day before,” she says, adding, “Then there are also the times you just grind
it out.” – Brian Gosselin ’10

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