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Biomedical and Nutritional Sciences Students Gain Research Skills in Faculty Labs

Projects Include Studying Metabolic Dysfunction and the Effects of Toxins on Breast Cells

Prof. Shannon Kelleher with students
Prof. Shannon Kelleher, in black top, with applied biomedical sciences majors, from left, Stendy Ly, SreyNich Song, Jessica Ross, Kaitlin Cronin and Angelly Peralta.

By Karen Angelo

Eager to get more research experience, SreyNich Song jumped at the chance to work on a project for Prof. Shannon Kelleher of the Department of Biomedical and Nutritional Sciences

Song and four other students, all applied biomedical sciences majors, received input from Kelleher on the goals of the research into per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) on breast cell function and then dived in. Working in two teams, the students conducted experiments on their own.

Applying what they learned in a cell biology class taught by Assoc. Teaching Prof. Arlee Dulak, the students cultured cells, designed and executed experiments, and analyzed and interpreted data. They found that breast cells were sensitive to low concentrations of PFOA, one of the chemicals in the PFAS family, resulting in cell death. 

The hands-on experience, Song says, was “amazing.” 

“Working in Prof. Kelleher’s lab has been my favorite experience of my college career,” says Song. “I now have a clear idea of what I’ll be doing in my future profession in the biomedical field.” 

The opportunity to work on scientific research was also formative for senior Cristina Lemus Martinez, who investigated the effect of yogurt cultures on metabolic diseases – a research project led by Lindsay McGrail, a pharmaceutical sciences Ph.D. candidate, within the laboratory of Assoc. Prof. Kelsey Mangano. 

“We aimed to determine whether bacteria in yogurt could improve disease-induced metabolic dysfunction, including hyperglycemia, chronic inflammation and disturbed intestinal integrity,” says Martinez. “From this research, I feel confident and prepared to work in the biomedical industry.” 

McGrail built upon research conducted by Mangano on the effects of yogurt on bone health. 

“We need simple and attainable strategies to reduce the pathologies associated with metabolic syndrome, and the addition of yogurt into the diet could be an effective approach,” says McGrail, who earned a master’s degree in pharmaceutical sciences at UMass Lowell. “I have had an incredible experience under the guidance of Dr. Mangano. She is supportive, open-minded and dedicated to her students and research.” 

The support of faculty researchers helped Kaitlin Cronin figure out her future career path. 

“After working with Dr. Kelleher, I’ve decided that research is what I want to do for a career, so this experience fundamentally changed my pathway and interests,” says Cronin, who is now in her first year of the clinical lab sciences master’s program. 

Dulak, who had recommended that the students talk with Mangano and Kelleher about their research, looks forward to seeing how the students make a difference in the world. 

“I’m proud of all of these future women scientists, who will not only make an impact in their careers but will also be role models for other students,” says Dulak. “I’m also grateful to all of our department faculty and their support of our talented students.”