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The Big Discovery

Recent alumna’s ATP research lit a passion that’s led to a great career 

From Brazil to Bridgewater and now onto Harvard, the past five years have been both transitional and exciting for Fernanda Mederios Contini, ’23.   

When she first arrived at Bridgewater State University, Contini’s goal was to earn a degree in biology and minor in biochemistry, then move onto medical school.   

Instead, she developed a passion for research which led to her current position as a research assistant in Harvard University’s neuroscience post-baccalaureate (PiNBAC) program, where she is studying the sensory mechanisms of the brain.   

“The one thing I really appreciate about Bridgewater State is how my research experience led me to where I am right now,” Contini said.   

In the summer of 2022, she was awarded funding from BSU’s Adrian Tinsley Program for Undergraduate Research and Creative Work Summer Grants. Under the guidance of Professor Joseph Seggio, Contini researched estrogen and the ways in which it influenced the circadian rhythms in young versus middle-aged mice.   

“I spent the entire summer doing research and found I really enjoyed it and switched from going to medical school to a more academic route and researched-focused path,” she said.   

Throughout her BSU experience, she also received support from the school’s International Student and Scholar Services.   

Not only did Contini start her BSU journey coming from another country, but it was also during the height of the COVID crisis.   

“There was not a lot of in-person interaction, but the international team really checked in to make sure I was okay,” she said. “They were always there to offer support. It was nice to know that someone cared about how things were going.”   

Now at Harvard, she’s getting hands-on training through the PiNBAC program, which will help her in applying to PhD programs in the neurosciences.   

“Harvard has been a great experience,” she said. “At first it was intimidating, not on a personal level, but on a knowledge level. But I’m learning the ins and outs and finding my footing.” 

If she hadn’t stepped outside her comfort zone, taken a chance, and tried something new, this pathway might not have been revealed.   

“I think it’s important to be open to all opportunities, if you have things available, just do it,” she said. “Take a class, try something different, don’t be afraid to try.”  

“I already miss Bridgewater, I really liked my experience there,” she said. “The environment was good, the involvement with international students was good, the students were nice, and having mentors and professors who are interested in getting you where you want to go, the overall experience is supportive.”  

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