In addition to two minors and a major in pathobiology, Tessa Kell has participated in stem cell research through the UConn-TIP Bioscience, Entrepreneurship & STEM Internship Program (UConn-TIP). This 10-week summer internship program connects UConn students with start-up companies that operate right here on campus. Tessa worked in the STEM area of the program where she set up experiments to test the effectiveness of a drug intended to treat multiple sclerosis. Follow Tessa’s journey as a CAHNR student and undergraduate researcher.
What attracted you to UConn? When I was first looking into colleges, I was interested in a science major, but I was not certain which career I wanted to pursue. The pathobiology program here at UConn is a unique program. It offers broad range of potential opportunities that can lead to med school, vet school, research careers, or careers in public health. When I came to visit, I was introduced to students doing all of these things. Pathobiology seemed like a good marriage of all of my interests.
I also like the size of the school and the beauty of the campus. I like that it’s not in a city, and that there are farm animals here because that reminds me of home.
What is your major, and why did you choose it? I am a pathobiology major, but I also have minors in food science and molecular and cell biology. Pathobiology drew me in because it offers the New England regional tuition scholarship. I am eligible because I am from Massachusetts. Also, the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL) is part of the department, which offers research and hands on work opportunities to students.
Which one of your UConn activities, internships or jobs was the most memorable? Why? I have been on the polo team for four years, and I am the president of the polo club this year. I had never played polo before coming here, but I had ridden horses. I wasn’t planning on riding here, but then I learned that there was a polo team. had never played polo before coming here, but I played lacrosse in high school and had former riding experience, so polo seemed like a combination of the two. I started in the beginner program and I have been on the varsity team for over two years now. I always had a network of people from team sports in high school; it is nice to have that through college, as well.
Name two other experiences that have enriched your studies. I have worked at the CVMDL for four years, since my first semester. I work in the serology department where I do regulatory blood testing on animals. This really shaped what I wanted to do because it introduced me to bench laboratory science. I learned that I don’t necessarily want to work hands-on with patients or pet owners as a doctor or veterinarian. I enjoy the laboratory science side of medicine much more. So, it has pushed me to want to pursue a career in research-based science.
I also participated in the UConn-TIP program. I helped with FDA studies for a stem cell drug which is going to hopefully be approved to treat multiple sclerosis (MS). This experience solidified my goals.
What was the biggest challenge in your UConn career? Regrettably, I had to drop a class for the first time. It was Organic Chemistry II. But, I worked hard with a tutor all summer, retook it in the fall and got a good grade. It was an important failure that helped me to grow.
When do you expect to graduate? What then? I graduate in May. After that, I want to do a research-based master’s degree. I’ve applied to different programs focused on comparative biomedical sciences and immunology and infectious disease.
Eventually, I would like to work for some sort of research lab that is developing novel treatments for diseases. My interests are so broad that I would be happy working in any research lab, as long as it has something to do with curing a disease or learning more about it.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you? I am part of the College Ambassadors program, which introduced me to a lot of the CAHNR faculty, as well as the opportunities available to me in school. I like to share my experiences and interact with the incoming students.