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Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavor Award

January 10, 2018

About me

Caroline Ghio is a second year chemical engineering student with a strong interest in applications of chemical engineering that improve health. In addition to research, Caroline enjoys her involvement in SGA, the Society of Women in Engineering, and work as a tutor.

Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavor Award

As I clicked “accept” in response to Northeastern’s offer of admission on April 28th of 2016, I envisioned what I hoped the next five years of my life would be like. Drawn to Northeastern in large part by its many experiential learning opportunities, I dreamed about making friends, joining clubs, co-oping, traveling and studying abroad, and doing research.

Research was always part of my vision for college. My dad does research as a physician scientist and my brother participated in research throughout college and medical school; the energy the two of them exude when talking about their work is contagious and I couldn't wait to get involved in research myself. Within my first month at Northeastern, I went to the undergraduate research fair where I learned about the work done in different labs. I emailed a few professors whose research was particularly interesting to me and shortly thereafter began working with Marissa Puzan, a PhD student in Professor Abigail Koppes’ lab.

During my first year in the lab, I spent my time working alongside Marissa as she patiently taught me to learn to use various tools and techniques needed to feed cells, make up medium, and visualize results using microscopes for her experiments in which she is researching the gut–brain connection. As I approached the summer, there was never a question in my mind whether I would continue or not. I love my work there and I love what it contributes to my week. In the midst of the utter chaos of classes and clubs, research forces me to slow down. I often multitask and rush through many of the responsibilities of my day, but when I am feeding or splitting cells, or using the microscope, or prepping solvents, rushing results in contamination of cells and makes weeks of work pointless. Research requires my total focus and in that way is oddly calming. I also appreciate that the research I do is bigger than myself. I am a part of a team- with Marissa, with Professor Koppes’ and the rest of her lab, and with the broader scientific community. While I may struggle to see the relevancy of some things in classes, I always feel like what I am doing in lab is impactful and will benefit someone either directly or indirectly. Research adds meaning that sometimes is not so evident in day to day college life.

As an outgrowth of my work in lab during 2016-2017, I decided to apply for the Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavor Award. Through this awards program, I was empowered to come up with an independent research project to learn about absorption in the small intestine using a cell line created from colon cancer cells, organic acids like those produced  in glycolysis and the Krebs Cycle (two processes that help the body produce energy), and iron. I researched these topics, wrote up an application, and after a few months of review by the Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships, I was awarded funding to complete my project during the 2017-  2018 school year. This project means even more to me than my work freshman year, mainly because it is my own. I have an incredible support system for my research- Marissa, Professor Koppes, other PhD students in the lab, and other professors I discuss research with are incredibly helpful, but this project came about because it is something I care about, and I am the one responsible for carrying it out and finishing it. The cells I grow and the experiments I conduct are almost constantly on my mind, and talking about research is always a source of pride for me. Research has already influenced my life and my experience at Northeastern in innumerable ways. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to develop laboratory and research skills and for the sense of purpose research gives me, and I have no doubt it will play a large role in my career and professional life whether I work in research and development in industry, as a PhD in academia, or as a medical doctor. 

Date: 
January 10, 2018 10:45 am