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Irene Nagawa, Inaugural Recipient of the Levy CIMAR’s Undergraduate Summer Internship

Winter 2022 Featured Trainee:

Irene Nagawa

  • Senior at UMass Boston majoring in biology and working with the Levy CIMAR’s Aimee Shen, PhD
  • Inaugural recipient of the Levy CIMAR Undergraduate Summer Internship for Underrepresented Groups in Science and Medicine

Irene Nagawa is a senior biology major at the University of Massachusetts-Boston who first came to Tufts University School of Medicine last winter for the Pathway to a Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences (P2P) winter enrichment program. P2P is a three-week mentored, hands-on, research-intensive experience for undergraduates interested in biomedical research careers.

Irene excelled in P2P and was soon one of just two students awarded the first Levy CIMAR Undergraduate Summer Internships for Underrepresented Groups in Science and Medicine in 2022. For her internship, she worked on a Clostridioides difficile (C. difficile) research project in the lab of Dr. Aimee Shen. The Shen lab focuses on how C. difficile, a leading cause of antibiotic-associated diarrhea and healthcare-associated infections in the United States, how it creates contagious spores, and how these spores germinate in response to particular bile salts found within the gastrointestinal tract. Irene’s research goal this summer was to characterize the growth and sporulation properties of Ribotype 078 (RT078) C. difficile strains, which are responsible for a significant number of community-acquired and zoonotic infections. She submitted an abstract of this work to the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minoritized Scientists (ABRCMS) and received a ABRCMS travel award to present her research this fall.

Irene has a keen interest in the biomedical sciences on a professional level but also chose to major in biology in hopes of encouraging other young women to pursue similar career paths. “A biology major provides me with endless possibilities and in any research field I end up in,” she says. “My goal is to work hard and inspire other women, especially women of color. I want to demonstrate to other women that they too can pursue their passions. I also hope that my journey will inspire more Black girls to pursue careers in science.”

Irene was born in Uganda and immigrated to the United States as a young child. “My hope is to broaden my knowledge in graduate school and my perspective of the world as well as to better understand how to serve people from all backgrounds,” she says.

Outside of school and research, she likes to travel, work out, meditate, do yoga, cook, and hike. She is passionate about going on adventures and learning new things.