Jessica Ross ’22 loved her anatomy class in her freshman year of high school. Intrigued by the intricacies of the human body, she enjoyed learning how hundreds of processes make the body function properly. This interest led her to choose the applied biomedical sciences, clinical science option as her major at UMass Lowell.
With three younger siblings supported by a single parent, Ross chose UMass Lowell not just for its excellent reputation, but also its affordability.
“UMass Lowell offers merit-based and needs-based scholarships that helped me focus on studying and doing research,” she says.
Ross was a sophomore when COVID hit. During her junior year, all of her classes were held online, leaving no opportunity to get into a lab or do research. This changed in her senior year when she took a biomedical research course developed by Prof. Shannon Kelleher of the Biomedical and Nutritional Sciences Department.
“More than a class, the biomedical resource course was a research project,” says Ross. “We studied the effects of the common environmental toxin PFAS on the ability of mothers to lactate. I worked in a real lab setting and gained valuable lab skills in cell culturing and data collection and analysis. It was probably the most fun I ever had at the university.”
Another course, clinical and molecular cell biology, taught by Assoc. Teaching Prof. Arlee Dulak, provided an opportunity for Ross to apply her knowledge to real-world cases.
“It was a combination of lectures, case studies and open discussions about clinical science jobs,” says Ross.
As her last semester approached, Ross wanted to continue gaining research experience. She got into Assoc. Prof. Jonghan Kim’s lab, studying Wilson’s disease, a rare genetic disorder in which excess copper accumulates in the brain, liver and other vital organs.
With all of these hands-on skills filling her résumé, it didn’t take long for Ross to land a job. In her role as research associate in the analytical development department at Sarepta Therapeutics in Andover, Massachusetts, she works with different cell lines and assays to research novel therapeutic approaches to help solve rare genetic diseases, such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
“I’m very excited to be working at Sarepta Therapeutics and am very thankful to all of the many professors who helped get me to where I am today,” says Ross. “All of my professors loved their jobs and were passionate about teaching, and it showed in the classroom and in their labs.”