Students Finding Connection & Opportunities in Research with Social Justice Bent

Mar 26, 2018

Credit Northeastern Illinois University

Cindy Voisine grew up in Fort Kent, Maine – a small town with a strong French Canadian influence. Her family is bilingual, and she was the first in her family to go to college. She grew up thinking she would become a medical doctor, the only career she knew of that would satisfy her interest in biology. But her ideas changed when she got to Bates College.


Voisine fell in love with research, and pursued a Ph.D. She did postdoctoral research at Harvard University, then Northwestern University. But, it was at Northeastern Illinois University, a lesser-known state school just blocks away in Chicago, that things clicked. Voisine says she felt an immediate connection with many of the lower income and minority students at Northeastern Illinois University.

Now, those students are driving her research in new and interesting directions, like using the worms she favors for studies of aging to, instead, study racial disparities in prostate cancer outcomes or to sniff out tuberculosis quickly and cheaply. “It engages them, in a way, on a community level, where they see they can impact the communities that they come from,” Voisine said. “It’s not outright the conversation that we have during lab meetings, but I do notice that the students feel a responsibility in the project that may be just the responsibility of the scientific aspect of it.”