March 09, 2018

As a first-year student, Sophia Francisco ’18 had the chance to help a senior biology student with their research in developmental biology.

Francisco’s work impressed her professors so much that her sophomore year, she was made a teaching assistant in the biology department. This position allows the student to educate other students in the class with after class study sessions and homework help. This would begin her work with developmental biology and neurology, which led to a summer internship opportunity with Margaret Peeler, professor of biology.

During her summer research she tested the effect of verteporfin, a drug that can treat blood vessel disorders in the eye.

“We wanted to determine the effects of verteporfin on the early development of the sea urchin embryo. The genes we examined helped us determine the effect of the medicine on the formation of these cells,” says Francisco. The research aims to determine how the drug would affect the human body and several functions in the eye.

Francisco, from New York, N.Y., came to Susquehanna as a BIOS-STEM Scholar, a prestigious scholarship only awarded to 10 students per year by the National Science Foundation and Susquehanna University.

“Being part of this cohort has been a blessing for me. I have gotten the opportunity to meet and interact with a lot of professors, staff and alumni who have helped sculpt me along the way,” says Francisco, who plans to go on to graduate school for disease research.