Part of what makes Central MA so unique is its abundance of colleges and universities. And at each institution, there are professors, instructors, and coaches who go above and beyond simply dispensing academic fact inside the classroom; this special breed of educator becomes mentor, role model, and inspiration. It is these individuals whom we honor in Focus on Faculty. If you know a professor who should be featured in this section, please contact email@example.com.
Special Student Spotlight: Holy Cross’s Elizabeth Morse
Program Director of the Student Programs for Urban Development
By Christina Collins
From cancer research to ESL tutoring to “Hogwarts at Holy Cross,” Elizabeth Morse goes above and beyond the potential of a typical college student. This past summer, Morse was named the Engel Fellow for New England’s 2008 Fuller-American Cancer Society Fellowship, making her the top fellow in the eight-person program.
“I was the only undergraduate student in a lab of graduate students and post-doctoral fellows,” said Morse, a bright-eyed senior Biology major at the College of the Holy Cross. But Morse, who spoke about the experience with passion and enthusiasm, said that she was not intimidated, but mainly excited to be working under the direction of Nobel Prize Winner Craig C. Mello, Ph.D. At the UMass Medical School in Worcester, Morse spent the summer researching the role of the protein CSR-1 in the process of RNA interference and exploring how this may lead to methods to stop gene expression in cancer.
“Cancer affects everyone,” said Morse, when asked why cancer research is important to her. “Whether we know someone who has had cancer, or whether we personally have had cancer or will have it one day, cancer is unfortunately too prevalent in our society. The second best thing we can do is to keep asking informed, scientific questions in order to better understand the disease and its far-reaching consequences.”
As a member of the College Honors Program, Morse continues to work under the umbrella of cancer research. Morse is now working on her senior thesis, which explores the role of merlin (a tumor suppressor) in the disease of Neurofibromatosis Type 2.
Morse is a leader outside of the classroom, too. Since her freshman year, she has been involved in English as a Second Language tutoring for Spanish-speaking adults at local Catholic parishes. This year she is Director of the program, which is one of 40 Student Programs for Urban Development at Holy Cross. “Taking the time to help someone practice for a job interview can make such a big difference,” said Morse. “The conversations that I have had with the students I tutor has really opened my eyes to the struggles that many people go through in immigrating to the U.S.”
Morse is also co-chair of the Science Ambassadors, a group of students who share an interest in getting children excited about science. “We put on science shows and workshops at schools in the greater Worcester community,” she explained, “as well as host hundreds of local families at Holy Cross for our biggest annual event, ‘Hogwarts at Holy Cross’!” This unique event is modeled after the “potions” classes offered at Hogwarts in the Harry Potter series.
Upon graduating from Holy Cross, Morse hopes to get a job in the research field. “I would love to work at a lab where I can tackle some of the tough questions about cancer at the cellular level,” she said earnestly. Considering all of her achievements, we doubt she’ll have any trouble getting a job offer.
Editor’s Note: Right after the print version of this November issue went to press, Elizabeth handed over her directorship of the SPUD ESL Tutoring Program to another student as part of the transition between parishes. Please join us in wishing Elizabeth the very best in her future endeavors!
Photo by John Buckingham
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