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Co-op student on forefront of stem cell research

Biochemistry junior Anne Roe has loved science since seventh grade. That interest drew her to the classrooms of Northeastern and, on her most recent co-op, to a stem cell research lab at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine.

“I’m very determined,” Roe said, after returning from California. “Ever since junior year of high school, I have only worked on science-related projects. Now, I’m focused on neurology and stem cell research.”

Roe’s tenacity is how she secured the co-op at UCLA. “If you want to be a part of something, you have to go to the top people,” she said.

Once she identified California as a hub of stem cell research activity, she reached out to scientists who work with stem cells.

Roe’s name and interest came to the attention of Dr. Martina Wiedau-Pazos, the member of UCLA’s neurology department who also oversees research into amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. She created a co-op position for Roe.

“Networking is powerful and extremely useful,” Roe said. “By the time I got there, everyone associated with stem cells recognized my name. Mainly because I’d emailed them all at some point.”

She began her co-op by examining the role of astrocytes in the progression of ALS. Astrocytes are a type of cell found in the body’s nervous system. The project, however, was put on hold midstream.

Focus shifted to assisting in the research and development of a new human stem cell-derived model that could be used for more advanced study of ALS.

The scientific journal Disease Models & Mechanisms recently published a report on this research program, citing Roe as a co-contributor.

Roe’s co-op experience has confirmed that stem cell research is what she ultimately wants to pursue. “It’s something I’m interested in and there is still so much to learn.”

As senior year approaches, she’s already thinking about medical school – the next step that will help bring her closer to that goal. “I definitely want to earn my M.D. and end up either in California or Massachusetts,” Roe said.

Until then, she stays busy in the world of science, assisting on autopsies at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and working with Judy Newmark, a research scientist in Northeastern’s Warner Lab.