Feature Stories 2016: Deborah Dele-Oni: Research in Immunology

Deborah Dele-Oni, left, examining yeast cells during her internship at UMass Medical.
Feature Stories 2016: Deborah Dele-Oni: Research in Immunology
Deborah Dele-Oni: Research in Immunology

Deborah Dele-Oni '18 researched immunology during her internships at UMass Medical and Brown University.

Year: Class of 2018
Major: Biology
Hometown: Fall River, MA
Award: DCH Leadership Series Recognition
Internships: UMass Medical, Brown University, Gateways to the Laboratory Program
Research: Immunology
Leadership: Admissions Ambassador
Next steps: Career as pediatric immunology clinical researcher

Biology major: a blend of lab work and research

I wanted a major that would provide plenty of lab courses and the opportunity to conduct my own research in a professor’s lab on campus. Biology gives me both of those opportunities. There are so many career paths you can take in biology, one of those being research.

Endless possibilities for research at UMass Medical internship

My internship at UMass Medical School in a Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology Research lab opened my eyes to the world of research and the endless possibilities it offers.

I was able to conduct a research project in a lab alongside other undergraduates involving a heat shock protein called Hps90 and how systematic mutational analyses affect the fitness of cells. I learned how to conduct several fundamental lab techniques such as polymerase chain reaction, restriction digest, and DNA manipulation.

I got to see what it’s like to work 9-5 in a lab with less human interaction than typical medical doctors receive. I learned how the professional world works when it comes to research including the corporate side of research.

I also learned that research is a long and rewarding career and to always expect the unexpected.

Many of the things I learned in the lab are now being taught in my classes, and it’s great to see the connections.

I presented at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS) in Seattle and received the ABRCMS full travel award and the UMass Darmouth Office of Undergraduate Research Travel Award.

I've also been accepted to present at the New England Science Symposium at Harvard Medical School in April.

STEP-UP internship: an intellectual challenge

As part of the Short Term Research Experience for Underrepresented Persons (STEP-UP), I got to pick the institutions where I conducted my research. I chose Brown University to explore a broad area and challenge myself intellectually.

The research I did was clinical-based and focused on public health issues. I was in tuberculosis and infectious disease labs. I saw patients and learned a lot about the world of immunology and infectious diseases. 

My days as an intern were very flexible, and some days I found myself doing research instead of seeing patients. Other days, I would attend seminars and have meetings with doctors to update them on the status of my findings.

This program helped me form the distinct career path I want. I see myself becoming a pediatric immunology clinical researcher, using my experience to do some translational research in hopes of improving healthcare overall. 

Faculty who want students to succeed

The faculty I’ve worked with all have the same goal: to see students succeed. They want to help you, and when they see you succeed, it makes them happy.

Prof. Benjamin Winslow taught my first-year biology course, and I learned so much from him. He really understands the material and does everything to ensure that the students do too. He’s super helpful and overall a fun and nice person.

Endeavor Scholar: becoming a leader

Being a part of the Endeavor Scholars program has strengthened me as a leader and communicator. It’s given me so many opportunities to demonstrate my leadership abilities on- and off-campus.

I was able to attend UMassD because of the scholarship, and I’m graduating debt free.

A campus conducive to learning

UMass Dartmouth’s environment is conducive to learning—students are friendly, professors are helpful, and the campus is beautiful.

In the summer, the seats right outside the library are the best to catch up with friends, eat, or do homework. In the winter, I enjoy the library living room because of how cozy it is.

The campus is small enough that you’ll always see your friends, but big enough that you’ll always meet new people. 

Scholarship opportunities based on merit and need have made it possible for many students to attend college stress-free. 

Branch out of your comfort zone

Be proactive and ask questions. More than half the time someone else has that same question you have.

Search for opportunities and do not be afraid to apply to things because you’re not “qualified enough.” Don’t be afraid to meet new people or experience new things. Branch out of your comfort zone, and when anything gets tough or difficult, don’t give up.

More information

College of Arts & Sciences: Biology

Office of Undergraduate Research

Gateways to the Laboratory Program