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Students Finding Connection & Opportunities in Research with Social Justice Bent

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.”

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“Elsa Partan is a producer and newscaster with CAI. She first came to the station in 2002 as an intern and fell in love with radio. She is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. From 2006 to 2009, she covered the state of Wyoming for the NPR member station Wyoming Public Media in Laramie. She was a newspaper reporter at The Mashpee Enterprise from 2010 to 2013. She lives in Falmouth with her husband and two daughters.