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Ciearra Smith, PhD student

        Ciearra Smith

How did you start studying the genetic influence of nicotine dependency?
It’s funny because coming into graduate school I wanted to do cancer research but I ended up in a neuroscience lab and I love it. I love my lab mates, I love the PI, I love the research. Just reading the different literature involved in the nicotine addiction field is really interesting because nicotine addiction can cause different diseases, as well, so it ties into lung cancer. My grandmother smokes, so it’s something I could relate to my family, as well, and try to figure out how we can limit the addictive aspect of smoking so we can better treat these people.

What’s your favorite thing about working in a lab?
My favorite thing about being in the lab is that it really pushes my curiosity. It challenges my curiosity. It challenges my critical thinking. When you’re working in a lab constantly thinking about your project, you go home constantly thinking about your project and troubleshooting. It becomes very challenging and I like that challenge.

When did you first know you were interested in science?
Ever since I was seven I knew I wanted to be a scientist mainly because of the cartoon show Dexter’s Laboratory. I remember Dexter walking into his lab and just seeing the robots and technology was amazing. As a kid I had a really good imagination. It was fantastic. I was also blessed with my family who really cultivated my passion for science by buying me a microscope, a robot named Emilio, crystal sets and chemistry sets. I also did summer research at Johns Hopkins University and here at UMass Medical School, and was part of the Maximizing Access to Research Careers program (MARC). I’ve had a lot of influential people in my life, amazing mentors who really pushed me to be the best scientist I could be and pursue a PhD.