Close-Knit Peters Sisters Find a Second Home at UML
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 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.
“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 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.
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 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.
She is starting to look into Army research programs and scholarships for graduate school.
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!”