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Alumna Profile: Amanda Pacheco, ’19

Solid faculty advice leads to an unexpected career path
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Sometimes it’s important to see ourselves the way others do, especially when someone points out strengths we didn’t know we had.

That’s exactly what happened when biology Professor Jeffery Bowen encouraged Amanda Pacheco, ’19, to consider graduate school.

“He planted the seed of me going to graduate school and pursuing a PhD…I never thought I wanted to go this far ever,” Pacheco said.

Instead of becoming a physician’s assistant after graduating from BSU this past spring summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in biology, the Fall River native took her professor’s advice and moved to the Midwest. There she enrolled in the cancer biology program at the University of Michigan’s Program in Biomedical Sciences (PIBS) program.

“One of my primary jobs is to open doors for our students. It is up to the student to walk through the door and take a peek on the other side. If they like what they see, then they keep going,” Bowen said. “Amanda had the curiosity and courage to see what’s on the other side. All the credit goes to her for taking advantage of opportunities and for being willing to challenge herself.”

The University of Michigan wasn’t the only school to invite Pacheco, the first-generation college student was also accepted into a PhD program at the University of North Carolina.

Interestingly enough, climate played a factor in her decision to go to Ann Arbor.

“The weather in Michigan is very similar to what I experienced at home,” she joked. “But aside from that, Michigan offered a lot of labs that I was interested in.”

Pacheco has already completed her first lab, examining mitochondria in cells and how they contribute to diabetes.

She is now onto her second lab, studying how certain cells can play a part in the development of tumors within pancreatic cancer.

The ultimate goal, she said, is to help find cures for different cancers.

“Unfortunately I see cancer as being an issue throughout my lifetime…cancer is ever evolving and will require research in the years to come,” Pacheco said.

The plan is to finish the five-year program in Michigan and then move on to postdoctoral research.

“I don’t think I’ll work in the lab forever, maybe after my post-doc I’ll go into teaching at a university, someplace like BSU where I can interact with students,” Pacheco said.

And if she does go that route, she will share with her students a lesson she learned as a undergraduate at Bridgewater State.

“Find a mentor you can reach out to and ask questions of. Asking questions is extremely important, find someone who has had the experiences you want to have because you can get a lot of valuable advice from them,” Pacheco said. “It’s also important to get involved…find something you are interested in – break out of your shell and get involved.”

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