Ellie’s focus at the New York City-based unit was tracing genetic mutations in zebrafish that correlate with congenital heart defects in humans, as cardiac problems are among the leading causes of death.
“To my surprise, I was put on a project that includes work on genes that has never been carried out before, so every time I went to my boss with questions on things I found, he was just as surprised as I was,” she said. “It's a great feeling knowing you're making real-world progress and raising questions that will continue to be pursued after your time in a position ends. It's an even greater feeling knowing that you're part of something that will prove to benefit those who are affected by these horrible diseases someday.”
A psychology and brain sciences major, Ellie said her internship has given her a “surreal awareness” for how important it is to get hands-on experience in a field of interest before graduating.
“For the first time, I felt what it's like to love going to work and taking pride in your job,” she said. “I've solidified the fact that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. In addition, the relationships I've started with the people I've met through taking this position are truly invaluable. Working alongside some of the brightest people I've met and those who are already well-established in their careers is truly so inspiring and provides some extra motivation to stick to your studies because it will be worth it in the end.”
The Carver native credits UMass with pushing her to step out of her comfort zone and seek out the internship opportunity.
“UMass, being such a large and diverse community, had a big impact on my ability to pursue a position that was previously out of my element,” she said. “I am grateful to be part of a university that promotes thinking outside of the box and taking chances for the sake of personal and professional growth.”
Ellie said she ultimately hopes to become a neurosurgeon and develop treatments for neurological diseases and traumas. She called the UMass College of Natural Sciences an “outstanding community” that has prepared her for a future in medicine.
“From amazing professors to access to state-of-the-art facilities, I believe I made the right decision coming to UMass as a pre-med science major,” she said. “It's one thing to ace a class because it's easy, or from efficiently cramming for exams, but walking away from a course actually having learned something rather than just recalling facts for a few weeks is where the difference lies.”
Connect with Ellie Backman-Beliveau on LinkedIn.