Biomedical sciences student pushes the limits of time, energy

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Brett Carlsen

Biomedical sciences major Lacey Andrews is shown here during Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival last year. Andrews helped identify people’s DNA at the DNA Necklace exhibit organized by professor Robert Osgood.

Sleep gets in the way for Lacey Andrews. Give her the time and she will cure diabetes, compose a movie soundtrack and write a novel or two—and all before breakfast.

Ambitious students like Andrews learn how to make room in their overscheduled lives for one more activity or another class—or 10. Andrews enrolled in, and successfully completed, 10 courses during the winter quarter of her freshman year.

“Naïve, amateurish,” she says in hindsight. “It was probably the craziest thing I ever did in my life.”

It was also the highest GPA quarter for the biomedical sciences major, who achieved a noteworthy 3.8 GPA that term.

Andrews, an Atlanta native, tested herself on purpose and learned a valuable lesson: “I realized that when I keep myself busy, I always perform a little better than when I don’t.”

This quarter is no different. In addition to taking a full course load, Andrews is president of COS AALANA (College of Science African-American, Latino American, Native American), which she co-founded; plays viola with the RIT Orchestra; and writes short stories in her free time. When time allows, she picks up a game of basketball or volleyball with friends.

Andrews hopes to prove her endurance in medical school next year. She has applied to 14 universities, with University of California at San Diego, Morehouse School of Medicine and Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University as her top three choices. She aspires to earn her medical and doctoral degrees in order to care for patients and conduct research.

Her medical and scientific interests marry neuroscience and “all aspects of endocrinology,” and were inspired by a class taught by Elizabeth Perry, lecturer and director of the biomedical sciences program in the College of Health Sciences and Technology.

Andrews found a summer research program in Brazil that drew upon neuroscience and endocrinology. “I found a way to combine both,” Andrews says. “And it was like I hit gold when I saw the project description. It was like fate.”

She studied a viral-induced model of Alzheimer’s while learning new lab techniques and a smattering of Portuguese at University of Sao Paolo for 10 weeks. Andrews was one of 12 American students who conducted health-related research at institutions throughout Brazil as participants of the Multidisciplinary International Research Training Program, funded by The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities of the National Institutes of Health.

The disproportionate number of African-Americans and Hispanics who develop diabetes troubles Andrews, who would like to end the trend.

“Teaching others how to live a healthy lifestyle with the resources available to them is of special significance to me,” she says. “Coming from a very humbled background, I realize that the foundation for a healthy, productive society is to care and educate those with limited sources.”

To participate in the research program meant that she had to trade summer in Atlanta for winter below the equator in southern Brazil, where temperatures in Sao Paolo dipped into the “chilly” 60s and 70s. The season-swap was worth it to Andrews, even if she will experience winter on two continents this year.

“It’s necessary to go abroad once,” she says. “To have something like that to remind you who you are and where you come from. It’s really almost necessary. There’s so much you can take in just by going somewhere else. Outside of America, it’s just so different. We are in some ways shielded.”

“Brazil has the largest descendent population outside of Africa,” she adds. “I live in the south, where supposedly the culture is rich. And then I went to Brazil, and there was just so much culture. Language is really the only barrier because we’re all the same.”