Andrea Silva, Class of 2014
October 26, 2017
Janet Butler, Biomanufacturing instructor at Davies, remembers what 2014 graduate Andrea Silva was like as a student. “She was never really sure of things,” Butler says. “She always asked a lot of questions. ‘I don’t get this right away.’ Now three years later, she’s a published author.”
This fall, Silva returned to Davies Tech to speak to sophomores in her former program, Biomanufacturing. Today, she’s in her senior year at University of New Haven, with a major in Biotechnology, a plan to pursue her Master’s, and an end goal of working in autoimmune disease research. This past summer, Silva created a proposal for University of New Haven’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF), a faculty-mentored research opportunity offered annually by UNH which allows students to propose, conduct, and present findings from a research project of their design. Her research project -- “Molecular Mechanisms by which HPV Negative Cervical Cancer Cell Cycle and Cause an Increased Cell Growth” -- was one of the selected proposals.
Her research paired her with a mentor, Dr. Christina Zito. Silva plans to continue on with her two-month project with independent research. She’s submitted her published findings collected so far to the annual Washington, DC, event “Posters on the Hill,” an event which gives undergraduate students the opportunity to present their research to congressional members.
When asked if she expected to be so involved and engaged in her industry before completing college, Silva smiled but answered quickly, “Absolutely not.”
During freshmen rotation at Davies, Silva was uncertain which program she wanted to go into. Biomanufacturing wasn’t a sure thing. She considered Health Careers at first, then Engineering. Ultimately her chosen program ended up being a blending of both.
Growing up, Silva says her mother told her she always asked a lot of questions. “I wanted to know how certain things worked,” she said. “I always wanted to know why things happened and now it’s ‘Why does that cell react to that?’”
Silva said her interest in Biomanufacturing took off during a school field trip to Alexion.
“One thing that’s great about Davies is they pushed field trips in different areas,” she said. “We went to pharmaceutical labs, we went to water treatment facilities. You see every different aspect of a research lab. You see quality control. You see trials. You see the mechanisms behind why a drug might work or not. I personally found that whole mystery of how things worked interesting. It’s what I wanted to do. My senior year I did a job shadow in Rhode Island Hospital, in the pathology labs. It was interesting to see the medical side, instead of just the pharmaceutical side; to see how people’s lives are changed by these small samples. I wanted to find out how to help people even more after that, to find treatments.”
Upon leaving Davies, Silva thought she would focus on pharmaceuticals.
“I thought I’d give Biotechnology a shot,” she said, of her major. “I ended up liking it way more than Pharmaceuticals, which is what I thought I wanted to do.”
Butler said she believed most students were drawn to the Biomanufacturing program because of a love of science and laboratories, even if they’re initially uncertain with what to do with that interest. “We don’t expect you to go into pharmaceuticals,” Butler said to her class of sophomores. “We’re a springboard for scientific fields. You could end up a molecular engineer.”
Unprompted, a sophomore raised her hand and explained she had always been interested in space -- that, maybe, she could work for NASA.
Silva agreed that, whatever path students pursue, that if they stay in STEM, they’ll be prepared. “The first year, you take general chemistry and general biology classes, but they’re different than high school,” she said. “They’re more in depth, more advanced. But one thing about Biomanufacturing is… I kept my notes. We talked about the material here so I wasn’t as behind as everyone else. I had general, background knowledge.”
Andrea Silva’s research is currently under review for the Washington DC “Posters on the Hill” competition. Good luck, Andrea!