Graduate Student Experience Spotlight: Andrea Pires, MS in Cell & Gene Therapies

What is your major, and when are you graduating?  

My major is Cell and Gene Therapies. I am expected to graduate in the Fall or Spring of 2025 depending on how long my co-op is.  

Why did you decide to enroll at Northeastern University and pursue an advanced degree in Cell & Gene Therapies?   

Northeastern has always been a dream school of mine. I wanted a program that would help me hone my skills and knowledge in cellular and molecular biology. I wanted to be as prepared as possible when I enter the workforce. The Cell and Gene Therapies program’s curriculum had everything I was looking for, but the co-op opportunity is what really sold me. I wanted to join a program that would not only allow me to hone my skills and knowledge but also gain real hands-on work experience.  

Tell us about your experience in the program. 

My experience in the program thus far, has been beyond what I expected. In just two semesters, I learned so much about the history and current landscape of stem cell research, breakthrough cell and gene therapies, and how to develop python programs to handle bioinformatic datasets. All of which will hopefully help me stand out amongst other candidates as I begin applying to co-ops and beyond. 

What is/was your favorite part of the program, and why?  

My favorite part of the program so far was probably the Stem Cell and Regeneration Course. I found it extremely informative and fascinating. This field of research is constantly changing, and Dr. Monaghan did a really good job of providing us with the necessary background knowledge which put the more recent research breakthroughs of the field into context. I am also enjoying the Bioinformatics course. I don’t have much coding experience but have really grown to enjoy it throughout this course.  

Did a COS faculty or staff member help you excel in this program?   

The professors and TAs that I have encountered have all been extremely helpful with any questions that I might have. The Program Director Sahar Tavakoli and Associate Director Suzzette Turnbull have also been extremely helpful and attentive throughout the program. They have set up program mixers and provided internship opportunities. I was able to meet fellow CGT students and start an internship to get more hands-on research experience.  

What are your post-graduation plans?   

I plan to work in the biotechnology industry in the research and development of cell and gene therapies. I have not specialized in any specific sub-field just yet.  

Tell us about your work experiences. 

I am fresh out of my undergraduate studies and have no industry experience. However, I did conduct research in my undergrad on marine bacterial isolates. Specifically, we investigated the growth rates of known isolates and characterized unknown isolates to inform antifouling mechanisms. Currently, I am participating as an intern in the research of intact protein analysis at Northeastern’s Biopharmaceutical Analysis Training Lab.  

Do you have any advice for students (both grad and undergrad) pursuing Cell & Gene Therapies? 

For students considering Cell and Gene Therapies, I would say it is a great program and is perfect for those who enjoy molecular and cellular biology, especially genetics. The curriculum does a great job of exposing its students to the newer and more innovative topics in cellular and molecular biology.  

As for students currently in the Cell and Gene Therapies program, the key to success is utilizing every single resource that is provided to you. Taking advantage of office hours and extra lecture reviews is the key to being successful. Ask for help whenever you feel you may need it.