Biology alumna becomes involved with science research at MIT and Harvard

Ashley Ciulla '15 has partnered with and works alongside talented scientific researchers at two prestigious institutions.

By: Chelsea Cabral

It’s safe to say that Ashley Ciulla ’15 has been keeping herself busy following her undergraduate studies. Immediately after graduating, the biology alumna secured a job with MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and a job with Harvard Medical School’s Biopolymers Facility. In the spring of 2016, Ciulla, who also minored in sustainability, presented climate change research to Dr. Jane Goodall, and she just recently organized Boston’s March for Science.

All of her experiences have helped her realize the power of science. “The best thing about my jobs are getting to see and support real world cancer research, seeing the intricate mysteries that researchers are working to solve—down to questions about particular proteins involved in cell replication—and getting to use brand new, cutting edge technology,” said Ciulla. “It amazes me every day because I can see the fruits of science that have evolved over the last few centuries, right before my eyes.”

Cuilla assists Dr. Angelika Amon at MIT, and she makes the running buffers, petri dish media, and stock solutions. At Harvard’s Biopolymers Lab, Ciulla’s work is part of the central genomic core that helps serve Harvard’s Medical School, so she does a lot of extraction, quantification, preparation, and sequencing of DNA and RNA.

Ciulla has been doing exciting work in these labs alongside talented scientific researchers who want to remedy the world around us, and Ciulla says that the most surprising part of her work is seeing how vulnerable science is to cuts in public funding. “My genomic core provides services to researchers who receive funding, and when their funding is slashed we see our sample volume drop,” she said. “When researchers can no longer afford the tools necessary, all of humanity has lost—it’s an effect I had never expected.”

Because of her academic experience at UMass Dartmouth as a biology major, Ciulla felt incredibly prepared for the workforce. She gained a solid foundation in the liberal arts, and courses in political science and sociology really helped Ciulla connect her biology work to the world around her.

“I felt comfortable applying to a whole variety of positions: from the genomic and cell biology jobs I hold now, to conservationist positions that would have involved plant identification, to government positions researching coastal invertebrates,” said Ciulla. “The general education requirements really paid off because I can appreciate the big picture that my scientific work fits into.”

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