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Heather Pascual '14 M.S.

Cellular and Molecular Biology
"After attending an open house, I was captivated by the diverse expertise of the faculty members, the well-equipped facilities and the personal attention that I received."
Heather Pascual ’14 M.S.

About Heather

I am a pursuing a master’s degree in cellular and molecular biology with a certification in bioinformatics. I received my bachelor’s degree in nutritional science and dietetics at the University of Connecticut in 2008. I spent three years working as a clinical dietitian at Bridgeport Hospital with a focus in nutrition support, which helped me gain a significant amount of clinical practical knowledge and enabled me to interact with patients daily. But I recognized that I wanted to pursue a different career path. I was drawn to reading scientific research, and I realized that I wanted to return to school to pursue an advanced degree.

Why did you choose UNH and what attracted you to your graduate program?

I've always had an interest in genetics and epigenetics, a developing topic that explores how the environment influences your genes. It is related to my previous field of nutrition and the role the foods you eat plays in epigenetics. I knew I wanted to work in a laboratory doing research. A friend of mine was pursing a master's degree in education at UNH, and he told me that the program in cellular and molecular biology was something I should look into. After attending an open house, I was captivated by the diverse expertise of the faculty members, the well-equipped facilities and the personal attention that I received. Professor Michael Rossi spoke with passion during our conversation, which left me both enthusiastic and inspired. The program's strong emphasis in biochemistry and molecular biology will guide and strengthen my ability as an independent researcher.

How have your experiences at UNH helped prepare you for your desired career path?

Everything I have done here has helped prepare me! When I first started, I did feel a bit out of place, wondering whether I would be smart enough or able to keep up with the other students who were fresh out of their undergraduate programs. However, the faculty members in our department are the most influential, supporting and motivating professors I have ever met. They believed in me and pushed me to do my best. I became a teaching assistant and decided to pursue my own thesis project. I took one course in database for biological systems that changed my entire perspective on my future. Professor Duval inspired me and insisted that I pursue an additional certification in bioinformatics. This required me taking more computer programming courses. I never thought I'd have a knack for computer programming, but now I'm considering this to be the next step in my future career.

Tell us about a memorable hands-on learning experience such as a class project, applied research or an internship that you have participated in.

The greatest supplement to my academic experience at UNH has been the opportunity to work closely with faculty member Dr. Christina Zito and the other experienced researchers. Through my thesis research, I have gained far more than accumulated academic knowledge from my required courses. I have been able to pursue my interests, learn something new, enhance my laboratory skills and challenge myself in new ways. 

What are your post-graduation plans?

I hope to eventually get my Ph.D. However, I do not know exactly what I want to specialize in. I feel like I have so many options and that is all because of what the faculty at UNH has instilled in me.