“After taking a high school chemistry class, I realized how much I liked science,” said Edith Almanza, a 2014 Centralia College graduate. So when she decided to enroll in Running Start, Edith knew she wanted to pursue something in the field of science.
“I wasn’t exactly sure what kind of science,” she recalls. “I thought I could possibly major in chemistry or pre-med thinking maybe I wanted to be a doctor.”
After being accepted at the University of Washington during her senior year of high school, Edith found out about UW’s GenOM ALVA summer internship program, a genomics outreach for minorities. Although she didn’t think she would get in, she applied and was accepted. Unlike other students who already had some research experience in genetics, Edith felt like she was coming in very new. Undaunted, she says she was ready to learn.
Her summer as a research intern opened her eyes to a whole new field of science. After a two-week training period, Edith was assigned to work in UW’s Bamshad Lab in the Department of Pediatrics. That’s where she fell in love with genetics. Through her research project, she and her lab team discovered a new genetic mutation that is a probable cause of Distal Arthrogryposis Type 5 (DA5), an autosomal dominant disorder.
“It’s amazing how one mutation can cause all these different diseases that can change a person’s life. It fascinates me,” she said. Her research involved screening for mutations in five exons in the PIEZO2 gene from five different families with members who had the DA5 disorder.
One of the highlights of the summer program was experiencing the unique sense of community that science offers.
“It’s not just one person doing the work. We collaborate with people,” she added.
Edith and her lab team worked together not only on the research, but also on creating a poster presentation sharing their discoveries.
Currently a freshman at the University of Washington, Edith was named a 2014-15 GenOM Undergraduate Researcher. This February, she and some other students from the UW summer program traveled to Washington, D.C. to present their genetics research at the Emerging Researcher’s National Conference in STEM. Edith presented her poster project before a panel of four judges.
“It was interesting trying to explain it to someone who actually understood what I was talking about,” she recalled. “They were asking me questions that really made me think and go into depth in my presentation.”
Aspiring researchers from all across the United States and even Puerto Rico attended the conference.
After discovering how much she loves research, Edith is no longer sure which direction she wants to go in her future. Pursuing a career in medicine as a doctor, she could help people–something she really wants to do–but she also likes research. Meanwhile, she is on track to graduate from the University of Washington in 2018.
Edith graduated from Centralia College with her AA and high school diploma in 2014. She was awarded the Costco Diversity Scholar in 2014 and the Barbara Dodge Outstanding Service Award in 2013-14. While attending CC, Edith was involved in Latinos Unidos, TriO Club and Student Activities Admissions Team (SAAT).
“Working at SAAT, I became more outgoing. I had to talk to a lot of people to get them to come to events. Now I’m more willing to talk to others and make friends.”
Her time at Centralia College, she believes, prepared her for a smoother transition to university life.