Goodbye Mice, Hello Humans


Taking a deep breath to steady my trembling hands, I carefully placed the frontal lobe of mice brain into a centrifuge tube containing formalin. This was my last week working at the Public Health Research Institute (PHRI) under Dr. Eugenin’s supervision. Waiting for the tissue to thaw, I looked gloomily around my lab space feeling nostalgic about my time here before I even left.

I realized that the most important lesson I learned from this summer internship was that the career you end up choosing does not determine what you are capable of doing.

Members of my lab had, in their own unique manners, altered the way I thought laboratory research was conducted. Projects always overlap, communication is constant, and collaborations within the scientific community lead to more informative results. Specifically, in the department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, my lab shares the common goal of studying how fungal pathogens impact patients with compromised immune systems. However, career goals differ and teamwork is essential for overall success. From working on a PhD in order to become an educator, to starting a job that deviates from an undergraduate major, or curing the Zika virus, the life stories of my team prove to me that there are no limitations to the work I choose to do.

My personal career goals lie in developing treatments by keeping the humanity of the patient as a forefront thought. Although, I now understand why mice models are effective in medical research, my interests of study have always centered on the anatomy of the human body. My summer internship at PHRI focused on the microbiology of the human brain, which fulfilled both my academic curiosities and my decision to transfer into the Connell School of Nursing (CSON). My transfer into CSON had to do with the fact that I wanted to be directly involved in translational research, bringing research found in the lab bench to the patient’s bedside. Unbeknownst to most, nursing careers in the 21st century have evolved by depending on the utilization of evidence based practice in everyday patient care. Having had this opportunity to intern at PHRI and work in a laboratory, has made me capable of professionally asking research questions, analyzing data, reporting and applying findings to my future work.

My career goals to become a nurse are for certain; however, my career interests still remain uncertain. After receiving a MSN in a specialized area of nursing practice, I plan to pursue my professional goals of improving both health care delivery systems and treatment methods.  Whether I do this by dealing directly with patients or by conducting further research projects, these are possibilities that I still need to explore. Hopefully, my area of specialty will be determined upon future clinicals and CSON faculty assisted research.

My sincerest gratitude goes out to the Boston College Career Center for making this summer internship possible; furthermore, for granting me a memorable experience that can only help me with my future endeavors.

Written by Sofia Ribeiro, BC Class of 2018


Fungus and Mice

“What did you do this summer?”

The Public Health Research Institute (PHRI) at the International Center for Public Health (ICPH) is a research facility for infectious diseases, residing in the Newark campus of the New Jersey Medical School (NJMS). Now acquired by Rutgers University, it’s primary mission serves to understand and overcome global infectious diseases.

This summer, I was given the opportunity to intern in the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics. Working under the supervision of Eliseo Eugenin’s laboratory, I am currently conducting research on an airborne fungal pathogen called Cryptococcus neoformans.  

Yes, I have an Elevator Pitch…

If this fungus is inhaled by immuno-compromised patients, (such as those infected with HIV or METH users) the Blood Brain Barrier (BBB) will be penetrated, resulting in cellular and cognitive damage. Using in vivo mice models, I am studying both brain and liver tissues to determine if different fungal strains of Cryptococcus neoformans and other paracellular mechanisms cause apoptosis (cell death) of micro-vascular endothelial cells found in the BBB. In summary, my research focuses on whether or not the GXM fungal capsule is the major component responsible for BBB disruption and CNS destruction.

“Ever to Excel” is a daily routine.

From taking rigorous science courses to handling multiple jobs and positions, Boston College has successfully prepared me for the world of work. With challenging coursework and ever rising expectations, my education has given me the scientific knowledge and research skills needed to become an analytical thinker in the lab. Thus, throughout my time at PHRI, I have been able to alter and improve procedures, seek multiple perspectives, and assess unforeseen outcomes.

A Jesuit education from Boston College is distinct from anywhere else in the world because Ignatian spirituality is instilled within the growth of the person. Women & Men for Others: BC has made me aware that the interpersonal skills are what truly matter.  Constantly asking questions develops connections with other employees and allows me to learn from their life experiences. Cura Personalis: Inside the laboratory, I am working with a team; therefore, being able to effectively listen and communicate with others ensures both safety and progression. Magis:  The daily mission to learn and to do more throughout this summer internship.

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Written by Sofia Ribeiro, BC Class of 2018