Mariah Dudash ’20, a biology major from Pittsburgh, PA, completed a research-intensive internship with Pioneer Valley Life Sciences Institute.

Mariah Dudash ’20, a biology major and ElmSTEM scholar, has a knack for cutting-edge science.

When the Pittsburgh native transferred to Elms as a junior, she immediately connected with Nina Theis, Ph.D., associate professor of biology, to work on a long-running project about floral scent. The duo presented their findings at the Eastern New England Biological Conference in spring 2019, and won a best-in-conference award for their poster.

Mariah (center) with friends and Professor Nina Theis at the 2019 Eastern New England Biological Conference, hosted at Emmanual College in Boston, MA.

In summer 2019, Mariah completed an internship at Pioneer Valley Life Sciences Institute (PVLSI), where she collaborated with a team investigating new approaches to treating breast cancer. Assisting with flow cytology, histology, and cell cultures, Mariah helped the team design experiments to learn more about chemical and environmental impacts on the immune system. 

Thanks to Mariah’s work, the PVLSI team gleaned new information about metastases and the polarization of immune cells, both of which have important consequences for treating and preventing a variety of different cancers.

Working in a leading biomedical lab was “priceless,” Mariah said, because she developed specialized skills that she could add to her resume.

“I feel like I get to work on projects that really matter,” Mariah said. “Working on high-profile experiments at PVLSI helped me narrow down what I want to do.”

While Mariah’s internship was certainly edifying, she also credits Elms with shaping her experience in the sciences. Thanks to the ElmSTEM program, which was funded by a five-year National Science Foundation grant, Mariah will receive scholarship support for two years as she completes her degree. Her summer gig became a reality after she secured funding from the Keating Schneider Experiential Learning Fund, which allowed her to take an unpaid position without worrying about living expenses. Finally, the quality of the Elms faculty left an indelible impression on her.

“One of the most important things about Elms is that my professors care about my education on a personal level,” Mariah said. “I’m genuinely star struck.”

With graduate school on the horizon, Mariah plans to go into parasitology, which will give her the chance to combat global diseases like malaria.

This story was published in the Fall 2019 issue of Elms Magazine. Learn more about our biology program.