Andrea Pires '23 poses in her cord and stole following her commencement
Feature Stories 2023: Andrea Pires '23: Finding treatments
Andrea Pires '23: Finding treatments

Senior biology major gains valuable experience and network through undergraduate research

Why UMass Dartmouth?

What brought you to UMass Dartmouth?

"I transferred to UMass Dartmouth in the fall of 2020 from Worcester State University. I decided to transfer to UMass Dartmouth so that I could be closer to home; I'm from Fall River, and I found Worcester too far from home for my liking. I have a close-knit family, and I missed being so close to them.

"I chose UMass Dartmouth's biology program because it's a reputable program that's close to home. Since my transfer, I have come to really enjoy and respect this program. It was a lot more rigorous than I expected, but I learned so much from my professors and instructors."

What drew you to the program?

"I ended up choosing a concentration in cell and molecular biology because it was the most applicable to my future career goals in cell and gene therapy. I have always been interested in genetics and genetic diseases, and I hope to pursue a career in studying these diseases and finding treatments."

Research

"I received an Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR) grant for spring 2022 to conduct research Professor Pia Moisander's lab, where I investigated the growth rates of marine bacterial isolates in Buzzard's Bay. That research project is featured on the OUR blog website. Additionally, I was able to continue this research throughout the summer thanks to the Urban Massachusetts Alliance for Minority Participation (UM-LSAMP) grant I received for the summer of 2022."

Pires also worked as a lab research assistant, where she gained valuable experience in conducting experiments and analyzing data. She continued investigating growth rates of marine bacterial isolates while working as a lab assistant at UMassD.

What did you learn during your time working in Dr. Moisander's lab?

"I learned a lot working with Dr. Moisander. Because of the pandemic, I had never gotten real hands-on experience working with cell cultures in a laboratory. The time I spent in her lab gave me insight into what life as a graduate student would be like, as well as insight into the inner workings of a research lab.

"At first, I was nervous to carry out the protocols on my own, but Dr. Moisander and her graduate students, Kenny and Stephanie, were incredibly helpful and welcoming. Ultimately, the time I spent working with Dr. Moisander has prepared me for my future in research as a graduate student and I am incredibly grateful."

Leadership and Service

"I really enjoyed volunteering as a chaperone for STEM4GIRLS. I was responsible for guiding a group of middle school girls to daily seminars. It was nice getting to know the next generation of women in STEM and seeing their eagerness and determination. They reminded me a lot of myself at that age. The girls asked a lot of questions, and it was nice to share my wisdom with them.

"I felt the same way being an ambassador for the biology department. I handled representing the department at the Fall into your Major event that takes place on campus, where students can get help deciding on which major to choose. Most of the students that were curious about the biology major were first-year students, and I got to share my experiences with them and help them learn more about the department."

What's next?

"After graduation, I plan to go to graduate school and get my master's degree. I applied to a few different programs, and I am planning to pursue either bioinformatics or molecular and cellular biology. Whatever happens, I feel as though my time at UMass Dartmouth has prepared me to continue my education and attend graduate school."

Any advice for future UMassD students?

"My advice for future and current UMass Dartmouth students would be to keep going. At times, life can get really overwhelming. That stress can easily bleed into school, but if you take things day by day, you'll get to where you want to be before you know it. UMass Dartmouth has given me valuable opportunities and connections, and I am incredibly grateful."

This story was written by Kamryn Kobel, rising senior English major and University Marketing assistant.