Two CURE Students Receive HOPE Scholarship Awards
Two CURE program and Biomedical Science Careers Program (BSCP) students, Graciella Rios Ortega and Judene Thomas, were awarded the 2020-2021 HOPE Scholarships at the Virtual Evening of Hope which was held on October 5 of this year. Ortega and Thomas — alumni of the 2-Year Continuing Umbrella of Research Experiences (CURE) program at the Dana-Farber / Harvard Cancer Center (DF/HCC), and mentees in the lab of Dr. Edward Benz Jr., MD (DFCI) — were each awarded HOPE Scholarships of $7,500.
“Though I came from humble beginnings, my mother, a fish vendor, struggled against all odds to ensure that I was able to pursue higher education” — Thomas.
BSCP has a mission to provide “students of every race, ethnic background, gender and financial status with encouragement, support and guidance needed for the successful pursuit of biomedical science and other science-related careers.” For example, Thomas says she was “born and raised in August Town, Saint Andrew, Jamaica in a single-parent home.” She says, “Though I came from humble beginnings, my mother, a fish vendor, struggled against all odds to ensure that I was able to pursue higher education.” In 2017, Thomas obtained a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry as a first-generation college student from Mount Holyoke College (MHC); she graduated with university and department honors. Currently, Thomas is pursuing her PhD in Cell and Molecular Biology at Northeastern University with research focused on understanding the molecular interactions between classic tumor-suppressor proteins (e.g. p53) and mitochondrial function in the onset and aggressive advancement of ovarian cancer.
Photo of Graciella Rios Ortega
"I was able to learn how to read scientific articles, learn cell culture techniques, as well as other lab skills, which has helped me tremendously throughout college. CURE empowered me to continue down the path of science and medicine because I was able to meet successful people who came from similar backgrounds as me. A lesson that has stuck with me from working in Dr. Benz’s lab is that failure is the greatest teacher. I had a lot of failed experiments in the lab, but from each one I learned something new, which now has caused me to never fear failure but to embrace it."
Ortega on the other hand was born and raised in Boston, MA, but she also lived in Ciales, Puerto Rico for a few years when she was younger. Currently, Ortega is majoring in Biochemistry as a senior at Simmons University, where she is also a part of Dr. Jennifer A. Roecklein-Canfield’s lab where they conduct research on bacteriophages. She is also a medical assistant at Boston Medical Center, and an intern coordinator for the Youth Programs at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She plans on going to medical school and getting a combined degree in Medicine and Public Health. Ortega says: “I aspire to have a career in community health and to be an advocate for health equity in hopes of eliminating health inequalities present in the healthcare system.”
“The CURE program has helped me solidify my interest in the field of science because it was my first research experience” — Ortega.
Similar to Thomas, Ortega says: “The CURE program has helped me solidify my interest in the field of science because it was my first research experience.”
- Rosemary Nabukeera