Feriel Boudif knew UMass Lowell was the right university for her because of the vast research opportunities on campus.

By the time the honors biological sciences major was a sophomore, she had secured two paid research assistant positions.

“To have already gotten two paid research experiences, it’s awesome,” says Boudif, who grew up in Woburn, Massachusetts.

The first research position came about while Boudif took Introduction to Sociology during the spring semester of her first year with Sociology Asst. Prof. Chandra Waring. Boudif found the course material fascinating, so she approached Waring to see if she needed help with any research projects. Waring said yes, and over the summer, Boudif assisted Waring with a research paper that examined advice that biracial people offered to younger generations.

In her position, which was funded by the Department of Sociology, Boudif would review recent academic articles related to Waring’s work and make recommendations to Waring as she drafted her paper. She would meet virtually with Waring and another research assistant, Kimani Brown, a sociology major from Boston, to discuss their findings.

“Waring got analyses from two different levels of students, because Kimani was a junior going into her senior year, and I was a freshman going into my sophomore year,” she says.

Boudif, whose parents are from Algeria, adds that as much as she loves biology, she is grateful to have gotten this sociology research experience.

“I enjoy exploring other fields,” she says. “And since I have a rich cultural background, I like to keep in touch with the cultural aspect of sociology.”

While working with Waring, Boudif lined up another research position for her sophomore year. Through the Immersive Scholars program, Boudif received a $4,000 award to work on research on campus or in the community. She discovered an opening in the lab of Biological Sciences Prof. Hwai-Chen Guo and applied.

“The job description was about recombinant biology, which is really interesting to me,” she says.

She is now one of five undergraduate students assisting Guo with analyzing M1 aminopeptidases, a family of enzymes found in the human immune system that could potentially act as targets for drugs used to treat serious diseases, such as autoimmunity, cancer, hypertension, viral infections and more.

Boudif is learning how to produce the enzymes in larger quantities, so the research group can study the enzymes’ structure and how they interact with other molecules.

“I’ve learned a lot of techniques and the importance of precision and attention to detail,” she says.

When Boudif came to UMass Lowell, she considered going the pre-med route upon graduating with a biological sciences degree, but Guo’s lab has made her aware of other possibilities.

“As I’ve started working in Dr. Guo’s lab, I’ve taken a liking to the research side of biology,” she says. “This is something I had never experienced before, but working in a lab is an eye-opener. Research is something I could see myself doing as a profession.”