Students of the Week

(Fall 2017 and Spring 2018)


November 10, 2017

Our ninth featured Ambassador of the week is Jessica Furtado. 

Jessica is a fourth-year student double majoring in Biochemistry and Public Health. Jessica is one of our international students who came all the way from the pearl of gulf countries, Dubai. Her initial goals as a first year were to work on drug synthesis and delivery post-graduation, which is why biochemistry was her first choice, “I felt it would most support this goal because of its focus on chemical processes and pathways”. However, as she progressed in her academic years and her focus narrowed, she realized that she was more interested in prevention rather than cure which is why she decided to pursue a Public Health degree. 


“Coming to a big school like UMass was overwhelming and made it easy to feel lost. STEM AP provided me with that sense of community with the bonus of pursuing what I love - Science!” Jessica’s STEM AP experience began right when the program started. She met some of her best friends through the program and has had multiple opportunities for campus involvement through it as well. Her favorite part, just like for most of our students, is mentoring. She was able to share her interest with middle school children while improving her leadership skills and boosting her confidence. 

Jessica has also been a part multiple lab experiences throughout her undergraduate years. In her first year at UMass, she was introduced to research in our very own Professor Peg Riley’s lab where she worked on antibiotic resistance genes and on tracing the molecular evolutionary history of antibiotic resistance genes using phylogenetic trees. "For one semester, I also assisted a graduate student with her project in finding a possible treatment for bacterial infections causing cystic fibrosis”. She continued working through Peg’s Lab over the summer of her freshman year as part of the STEM AP summer program. In the summer of her second year she got a research internship in Dr. Ming-Ming Zhou’s lab at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, NYC where she investigated the inhibition of bromodomain proteins using fluorescence polarization. And finally, in the summer after her third year she got a research fellowship to conduct research at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. She worked in Dr. Peter Harris’ lab studying Autosomal Recessive Polycystic Kidney Disease (ARPKD), more specifically she focused on a specific protein called fibrocystin, the misregulation of which causes ARPKD. Her experience at Mayo also allowed her some incredible networking opportunities while shadowing doctors and surgeons. “My research experience was absolutely fantastic, [...] it helped remind me why I was doing research in the first place- to improve people's health!”

Today, Jessica is working on her Honors Thesis in Prof. Michelle Farkas’ lab in the chemistry department. She is studying the patterns of expression of the core clock genes, regulators of circadian rhythms, in order to further understand the role of circadian rhythms in cancerous cells, particularly in breast cancer. She plans on attending graduate school for Biochemistry after graduation in hopes of gaining a more explicit understanding of diseases (particularly cardiovascular disease) on the molecular level to help improve health through preventative care.

Besides her extensive research experiences, Jessica is a co-manager at People’s Market, student-run business on campus. She is also a TA for epidemiology and for a freshman seminar that helps international first-year students integrate into UMass as well as being on the International Student Advisory Board. “This past summer I volunteered at a rehabilitation center, assisting occupational and physical therapists”. On top of all her commitments Jessica somehow finds time to play the piano. There is no end to her talents and achievements!

We applaud your success, Jessica, and we can confidently say that you will achieve all of your goals and more! Keep up the great work and keep inspiring the younger generations of students! We wish you the best of luck.


Congratulations Jessica!

STEM Ambassadors Program