Passion for Research in the Lab and in Industry Leads to Goldwater Scholar Nomination
Amanda Dee, E’23, bioengineering, has always enjoyed learning about the world around her. She participated in FIRST Lego League at the age of 8 and reached out to a professor in her hometown of Amherst, Massachusetts, at 13 years old—an experience that sparked her interest in plant biology.
Her passion for hands-on work and STEM research seemed a perfect fit for Northeastern’s bioengineering program. Additionally, Dee found the co-op opportunities hard to pass up. “I wanted to get a sense of what working in industry would be like,” she says.
Since entering Northeastern, Dee completed an Analytical Research & Development co-op at Sunovion Pharmaceuticals, where she ran analysis on drug products and collaborated with external manufacturers.
She is currently on co-op at Editas Medicine in Cambridge, Massachusetts, working as part of the Editing Technologies group. The biotechnology company uses the CRISPR gene editing tool to cultivate medicines for individuals with rare diseases.
Along with her co-op experiences, Northeastern has given Dee a prime opportunity to continue her true passion: research. Since the first semester of her first year, she has worked in the Lee-Parsons lab of Associate Professor Carolyn Lee-Parsons, chemical engineering, on campus, focusing on the plant Catharanthus roseus (Madagascar Periwinkle).
The flower produces two compounds that are used in treating cancer, including leukemia. But it is a long and difficult process to extract the chemicals from the leaves, so Dee’s research focuses on how to advance production of the final compounds. “It’s really important we study the system,” she says. “We have to determine how the system is regulated and how we can use that information to our advantage.”
Through her deep involvement and dedication to this work, Dee has earned the Spring 2020 PEAK Ascent Award, as well as PEAK Summit Awards in Fall 2020 and Fall 2021.
She credits her research with giving her valuable biotechnology and experimental design skills, as well as affirming her future goals. “My plant lab is doing important engineering research,” Dee says. “It made it so apparent to me that it was the field that I wanted to go into.”
Dee’s accomplishments in the classroom, on co-op, and in the lab have contributed to her recent nomination for the 2022 Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, which honors extraordinary STEM students interested in pursuing research careers.
“I’m very honored and I’m really excited,” she says. “I feel like a lot of my accomplishments have led up to this.”
Dee hopes to leverage that momentum further as she continues to reach her dream of a PhD in plant biotechnology or agricultural engineering. “My experiences at Northeastern have led me to understanding what it is I really want to do,” she says. “It has inspired me to continue working in academia.”
Dee encourages aspiring researchers to not only seek out mentors who will support them in and out of the laboratory, but also to manage their time well. “In life, the work you put in is similar to what you get out of it,” she says. “That applies to research, as well.”