Posted: October 30, 2008
An accomplished member of Mount Holyoke's varsity crew team, Elissa Center '09 spent two summers in Boston rowing down the Charles with the USRowing Under-23 National Team development camp. Having enjoyed living away from home and spending time with fellow rowers, she wanted to repeat the experience; as a rising senior without an internship under her belt, finding a research opportunity in Boston was just the solution.
With a funding award from the CDC to pay for housing expenses, Center was able to work this past summer in a lab at Brigham and Women's Hospital, a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, between her daily morning and evening crew sessions. There, using mice, she studied immunology and the inflammation caused by lupus disease, helping in the search for a potential treatment for lupus in humans. The research--which focused on using oral and nasal treatments to prevent inflammation rather than drugs that suppress the immune system--allowed Center to broaden her academic perspective and find a new interest in immunology, which she'd never studied before.
"In research I got more of the bigger picture and more of the aim of the actual project," said Center, a neuroscience major with a self-designed minor in exercise and sports studies. "In class we do smaller-scale research, and it's a limited view of the process."
The opportunity helped Center realize she would like to focus on people as a part of clinical research rather than lab work in the future. She also wants to combine her interest in neuroscience with sports and exercise, so she's now taking classes in motor function (at the University of Massachusetts) and exercise neuroscience. No matter what her future, Center takes to heart all the lessons she learns--whether at the lab, in the classroom, or on the water.
"I've learned through crew that you need to give 110 percent in everything you do. Something isn't worth doing unless you can put everything you have into it," she said. "In a race you can't give up halfway through. I always try to give the best that I can."