Cassidy Cunningham

While majoring in biochemistry and minoring in mathematics and psychology, I am pursuing a career in medicine.  Along with being academically involved, I am a dedicated triathlete, a lifeguard, and work as an EMT-Basic on an ambulance.  Through UMass’s National Student Exchange program, I took a semester away from UMass and studied at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa in the fall of 2014.

During my sophomore year, I found out about an amazing summer clinical research opportunity offered through Baystate Medical Center, in Springfield, MA.  I knew at once that I had to apply and I was so sure that it was the research experience for me, it was the only summer internship I applied for.  In the middle of February, I got the exciting news that I was accepted to the Baystate Summer Scholars program!  Throughout the summer of 2014, I worked with Katharine White, MD, MPH, in the OB/GYN department at Baystate Medical Center.  My research project studied the premature discontinuation rates and reasons for discontinuation with long-acting reversible contraception (LARC).  In other words, why did women stop using their method of birth control, whether it was an intrauterine device (IUD) or an implant, before it expired?  The results of this study will help healthcare professionals improve their counseling of women prior to choosing a method of birth control.  Through the program, I also got to shadow in many different departments, including trauma, inpatient pediatrics, the pediatric emergency department, the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), and the most exciting opportunity was shadowing my mentor overnight in labor and delivery!  Getting to be in the OR and seeing multiple C-sections and births in the late hours of the night was an amazing experience.  I now get to continue the research project as a Research Associate through Baystate Medical Center, which I am beyond excited for!

As an undergraduate at UMass, I am also involved in research.  I first gained research experience in the Chase lab of the BMB department, studying Caenorhabditis elegans.  I am now an involved undergraduate researcher in the Arcaro lab of the Veterinary and Animal Sciences Department.  Going into my final year at UMass, I will be studying changes in DNA methylation in various bonefish tissue types, determining whether urbanization and contamination in the Florida Keys could be causing a decrease in the bonefish population.  From dissecting the various tissues from the fish, to isolating the DNA and running various assays on the samples, I am learning so many different research techniques.  All of these experiences are helping me achieve my dreams of accomplishing everything I set my mind to and I encourage everyone to follow their passions.