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Four Sisters Pursue Honors in Biology, Education

Close-Knit Peters Sisters Find a Second Home at UML

From left: sisters Margaret, Eleanora, Rose and Regina Peters on a stairway in UMass Lowell's Allen House, home of the Honors College Photo by K. Webster
The four Peters sisters are all in the Honors College, and three of them are studying biology. From left, Margaret, Eleanora, Rose and Regina.

01/03/2023
By Katharine Webster

When biology major Regina Peters presented her honors thesis research on Blanding’s turtles at the Kennedy College of Sciences in mid-December, her entire family came to campus to listen and support her.

That included her three sisters, Eleanora, Rose and Margaret – all UMass Lowell students and all in the Honors College – plus their brothers Andrew and Robert, who are still in high school, and their parents, Eileen and Christopher.

It was typical of the close-knit family from Stoneham, Massachusetts, who have home-schooled all their children since Eleanora, the oldest, began fourth grade. Eleanora is now a senior education major with minors in English and history.

“My home-school experience inspired me to love education. I got a great love of learning from my family,” she says. “Home-schooling just gives you that more personalized form of learning.”

The Peters sisters took their core academic classes through a Catholic home-school program, but once that work was done, they had the freedom to pursue individual interests.

And although each one followed a different path, all four sisters found their way to UMass Lowell, where their father, a chemist at Raytheon Technologies, had worked on projects at the Raytheon UMass Lowell Research Institute.

This past fall, for one semester, all four sisters – Eleanora, 24, Regina, 23, Rose, 21, and Margaret, 19 – were UML students at the same time, before Regina finished her degree in December. They helped each other with homework, went to Honors College and Catholic Student Union events together (Eleanora is the student organization’s treasurer) and joked and commiserated while commuting.

“I didn’t come here because it’s where (my sisters) came, but it was definitely a plus, because I could see that there are a lot of opportunities here that I want, too,” says Margaret, a first-year biology major. “And I liked that we could carpool.”

Eleanora 

Eleanora won a scholarship to Assumption College in Worcester and a coveted graphic design internship. But she quickly realized she didn’t like sitting alone in front of a computer. 

Honors education major Eleanora Peters with Education Prof. Pat Fontaine, a mentor with whom she is doing research on Lowell industries during World War I Photo by K. Webster
Eleanora Peters, an education major, is using an Honors College Student Fellowship to do research on Lowell industries during World War II with Education Prof. Patricia Fontaine.
So, after two years of college, she moved back home to work while she figured out what to do next. An internship at the Boston Museum of Science, visiting second-grade classrooms in Boston and accompanying the children when they visited the museum the next day, sold her on becoming a teacher. 

“I tried it, I loved it and I never looked back,” she says.

She applied to UML as an education major in part because Regina, just a year younger, was already here and they could commute together. Eleanora is now a senior, student teaching at an elementary school in Wakefield, Massachusetts, and taking graduate classes toward a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction.

Regina

Regina applied to UMass Lowell as a biology major with a concentration in ecology. A key factor in her decision to attend was UML’s offer of an Immersive Scholarship: $4,000 to do research or study abroad after her first year.

Eileen and Christopher Peters, top, with their six homeschooled children on a staircase at UMass Lowell's Allen House, home of the university's Honors College Photo by K. Webster
The entire Peters family, including parents Eileen and Christopher and brothers Robert, left front, and Andrew, came to campus for Regina's honors thesis presentation.
She used it to intern during summer 2020 with Zoo New England. Her job: tracking down juvenile Blanding’s turtles at the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, in Sudbury and Concord, Massachusetts. She monitored the growth of those that had been placed in school classrooms during their first winter, where they were well-fed and safe from predators, before being released back into the wild in spring.

She went on to become the box turtle intern at the refuge for the following summer under a Science Scholar Research Grant from the Kennedy College of Sciences. After that, she worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Blanding’s turtles and invasive plants at the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge, which spans four towns in Middlesex County, as a co-op for six months in 2021 and a paid intern in 2022.

“My Immersive Scholarship experience catapulted me into the world of turtles,” Regina says. “I really love doing the fieldwork. Going out and checking traps, you don’t know what you’re going to catch: painted turtles, snapping turtles, spotted turtles or Blanding’s turtles.” 

Now she plans to work at Assabet River, Great Meadows or one of the other six national refuges that make up the Eastern Massachusetts National Wildlife Refuge Complex before going on for a graduate degree in turtle research.

Rose

Rose is also a biology major who came to UMass Lowell because of an Immersive Scholarship and the opportunity to join the Honors College. UMass Lowell was also “way more affordable” than other schools in the area and more commuter-friendly, she says.

“I like being close to my family,” she says. “I have a lot of support at home.”

Another key factor was the wide array of choices both within biology and throughout the university. Rose is still exploring them and her career options; she has added a minor in chemistry and looks forward to taking a nutrition class in the Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences this spring.

“My interest in science has just grown,” she says. 

From left, sisters Eleanora, Regina, Margaret and Rose Peters bundled up on a stairway outside Allen House, home of the UMass Lowell Honors College Photo by K. Webster
The Peters sisters outside Allen House, home of the Honors College, after Regina's honors thesis presentation. From left, Eleanora, Regina, Margaret and Rose.
Rose’s Immersive Scholarship allowed her to combine her main interests as an intern in the Combat Feeding Division of the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research Center during summer 2021. She analyzed MREs and studied the effect of certain nutrients on health, and she returned last summer to continue the research as a part-time federal employee. 

She is starting to look into Army research programs and scholarships for graduate school. 

Margaret

Margaret, like Rose, volunteered at the Stone Zoo during high school, first in the petting zoo and then – after a job caring for plants at a farmstand – in the horticulture department, transplanting and tending plants inside the animal enclosures. 

She, too, was excited about getting an Immersive Scholarship at UML, which she says will give her early research experience that will help narrow and focus her interests.

In the meantime, she’s enjoying her honors and science classes and being close to her sisters.

“I think the professors here truly care,” she says. “Eleanora, Regina, and Rose have all been mentored by their professors, really building personal connections – I think that’s very important – and the classes here explore topics with great depth and interest!”