Sunilda Frias is a whiz at biology, her major.
As a rising sophomore in the Honors College, she won a summer research fellowship to work in the lab of a Nobel Prize-winning scientist at Brandeis University, thanks to a recommendation by UML Senior Lecturer Naomi Wernick.
“My professors have been so instrumental in helping me find my place at UMass Lowell and find opportunities,” Frias says.
Frias also loves great literature, and she didn’t want to stop studying it after high school. A $1,000, 100-hour Honors College Student Fellowship for reading works by all nine American winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature allowed her to pursue that passion, too, her freshman year. Her fellowship adviser was adjunct Michael Noltemeyer, who also taught Frias’s section of the First-year Seminar in Honors.
“A good author builds a virtual reality and lets you on the roller coaster,” Frias says. “To me, seeing the world through another person’s eyes is priceless.”
Frias initially pursued biology because her father wanted her to become a doctor. Now she has another goal, thanks to connections she’s made between life and literature.
She wants to earn a Ph.D. and do research in soil remediation, inspired in part by her all-time favorite book, Pearl S. Buck’s “The Good Earth,” about the struggles of a subsistence farmer in China.
Also, Frias’s parents are from the Dominican Republic, and on visits to family there, she’s noticed how the subsistence and small sugarcane farmers struggle to renew the soil so it can support crop after crop, year after year.
“Sugarcane is a very intensive crop; it takes a lot out of the soil,” she says. “If agricultural remediation can help populations that are suffering from food insecurity, I feel like that’s the best thing you can do.”
Frias, who commutes from her family’s home in Lawrence, went to high school in Chelmsford. She came to UMass Lowell because she grew up nearby, her uncle earned his master’s degree in engineering here and her father took advanced accounting classes.
“It’s a school I have always trusted,” she says. “I like UMass Lowell because of the diversity. You can get out of your comfort zone and meet new people, but still feel like you’re at home. I feel like I belong.”
Another selling point: As part of her acceptance package, Frias received a $4,000 UROC – Undergraduate Research Opportunity and Collaborations – award. She plans to take advantage of the international university exchange option to study immigration in Germany over winter break.
“I’ve wanted to travel to Europe for a long time,” she says. “The opportunity to do that is amazing.”