There is nothing more precious than a child telling her grandmother suffering from a chronic illness "I'll find a cure." However, when the child grows up, graduates from a four-year college with a degree in biology, and enrolls in a graduate research program at one of the country's top liberal arts colleges, it is no longer wishful thinking. It is real.

Senior's Mission to Find a Cure

Mon May 13, 2013

There is nothing more precious than a child telling her grandmother suffering from a chronic illness "I'll find a cure." However, when the child grows up, graduates from a four-year college with a degree in biology, and enrolls in a graduate research program at one of the country's top liberal arts colleges, it is no longer wishful thinking. It is real.

Ashanta Ester '13 has two grandmothers with diabetes. As a youth, she promised them she would find a cure for the disease that afflicts more than 25 million people in the United States.

When Ashanta enrolled at Elms College as a biology major, she envisioned a future in medical school. She quickly learned that she loved research and it would be a better career path for her to find medicinal cures than becoming a medical doctor.

She discussed her aspirations with her advisor who recommended taking an independent research course, which would give Ashanta hands-on experience and cultivate critical thinking skills.

After her first year of independent research, Ashanta knew it was the field for her and signed up for another year in which she was able to present her research–which studied microbial populations in horses before and after treatment–at the Eastern College Sciences Conference (ECSC) at Providence College.

"By being here and being introduced to research, I've found that it's something I'm really passionate about," said Ashanta, who was recently awarded the Anne M. Bubnic Award for outstanding achievement in biology.

Ashanta will bring her passion with her to Smith College where she will pursue a master of biological sciences degree. After presenting her research at ECSC, Ashanta hopes to continue that research at Smith College where she was awarded a fellowship with a full stipend and tuition waiver.

"The work that we've been doing here hasn't been done before. It would be very beneficial to veterinarians," she said. "I want to continue the research so that it is not lost."