Feature Stories 2023: Nursing major Amaechi Obison ’24 is considering several options for his future

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Raised in Zambia, Amaechi Obison '24 completed the first year of a two-year internship at the University of Maryland School of Public Health this summer, where he researched the NLRP3 inflammasome.
Feature Stories 2023: Nursing major Amaechi Obison ’24 is considering several options for his future
Nursing major Amaechi Obison ’24 is considering several options for his future

Completed a research internship this summer at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health

Realizing the flexibility that his nursing degree will provide, nursing major Amaechi "Obi" Obison ‘24 is keeping his options open. After graduation, Obison may work as a clinical nurse while he is also considering specializing in anesthesiology or attending graduate or medical school.

This summer, Obison completed the first year of a two-year internship in the Summer Training and Research (STAR) Program at the University of Maryland School of Public Health. The program, funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, provides historically underrepresented undergraduate students with two consecutive summers of research training and career development to enhance their potential to apply for and complete doctoral degrees in biomedical and behavioral science.

During this internship, Obison researched the NLRP3 inflammasome and differences in immune responses in older adults. This research project will help to determine whether inflammation is affected by an inactive lifestyle.

Born in Lowell, MA, Obison and his family returned to his parents' native country of Zambia when he was a young child so his parents could afford to spend more time with their children rather than work several jobs. The oldest of three children, Obison wanted to return to the Bay State to attend college. His cousin, Taonga Horace ‘23, graduated from UMass Dartmouth in May as a medical laboratory science major, and spoke highly of the College of Nursing & Health Sciences.

Accepted to every college he applied to, Obison chose UMassD. "My cousin encouraged me to come and told me about the nursing program," he said. "It's good to have a connection. And, UMassD has one of the best nursing programs.

"It's been a very good, eye-opening experience. I've met people from different backgrounds and experiences and had the opportunity to make some really good friends and connections with staff," Obison added.

STAR Internship, Univ. of MD
In a research lab at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, Obison is balancing a test tube to undergo a PBMC isolation in the centrifuge, which allows him to collect white blood cells from research participants to determine the level of the NLRP3 inflammasome.

STAR internship at the University of Maryland School of Public Health

After applying to several internship programs, Obison decided to intern at the University of Maryland's STAR Program this summer. He was one of just 28 interns from the U.S. and Puerto Rico. His research on the NLRP3 inflammasome involved identifying the protein found in white blood cells that is responsible for causing inflammation. Obison studied the difference in NLRP3 between aging individuals with active and sedentary lifestyles.

"Our immune system gets wobbly as we age, which leads to other diseases. We researched what activates this inflammation to see if the protein would activate depending on different factors," he explained. "Looking at these differences can help us understand, for example, if there is less prolonged activation of NLRP3 in older trained individuals as compared to untrained older individuals. Then it can be speculated that exercise helps in the prevention of disease and we can look at what specific exercises help —is it more cardio or strength training?" 

This research will be beneficial in finding treatments to alleviate chronic inflammation and joint pain for those dealing with gout, Parkinson's disease, lupus, atherosclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

"I learned a lot," Obison said. "I was able to expand on my knowledge and use of medical apparatus. I was able to interact with professors, medical students, and the dean of the school of public health who is a former U.S. Surgeon General and build a professional network.

"My research also focused on kinesiology, the effect of exercise on the body, and I realized how beneficial exercise can be. I've now added running to my workout and run four miles every other day."

Obison said the internship will help with his nursing studies as he learned about the body's immune system, and how to learn new material efficiently and effectively very quickly. "We're supposed to educate our patients. I learned to explain why we do something, and it gave me insight to put into practice what we learned in nursing."

He is grateful for Nursing Assistant Professor Mirinda Tyo and Clinical Assistant Professor Michelle Glowny for their help in pursuing the internship.

Research poster presentation, STAR Internship, Univ. of MD
At the conclusion of his STAR internship at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, Obison presented his research results. Realizing the many options he'll have with a nursing degree, he is considering a career in nursing, research, or medicine.

CNHS offers strong laboratory facilities and hospital affiliations for hands-on nursing experience

Obison's mother, Judy, is also a nurse and works in the ER at Nashoba Valley Medical Center in Ayer, MA. "I would go see her in the hospital and we would go home together. I've always been in a hospital and then I decided it was where I wanted to work," he said.

"CNHS has a lot of good facilities and hospitals that they work with. It makes the nursing experience more real. The labs have technology I've never seen before. It's very immersive. We do a lot of problem solving and I like to use my brain to solve problems."

Undecided about his career path, Obison is taking classes to prepare for graduate school. This summer's internship exposed him to careers he can pursue with his nursing degree.

Obison appreciates the diversity found at UMassD

Obison has worked as a resident assistant for the last three years, plays intramural soccer, and is a member of STEMing while Black, a national organization that supports Black students in STEM majors. "I got out there and tried to engage with my fellow classmates. At UMassD, I found a group of very diverse people in the classroom, as an RA, and in sports," he said.

Obison appreciates the diversity of UMass Dartmouth. "UMass Dartmouth is in a really good location. It draws people from different areas, different countries. I've met people from South America and Haiti and had the opportunity to interact with people I didn't think I'd find but I'm really glad I did."