“My grandmother suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, my uncle has diabetes, and a friend of mine died from cystic fibrosis when he was just 16. Stem cell research could lead to possible cures for these diseases that people I love have suffered or died from, ” said Krysta Johns-Harris ’08, a biology major at TCNJ. These occurrences in her life influenced her decision to pursue a passion. Along with Natalie Cedeno ’08, another biology major, Johns-Harris cofounded a chapter of the Student Society for Stem Cell Research (SSSCR.) Other board members include Regina Sommese ’08, treasurer, and Jennifer DeSousa ’08, secretary.
Both Cedeno and Johns-Harris, the president and vice-president, respectively, studied at a pre-medical summer program at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. After attending a graduate lecture on stem cells, the presenters invited the two TCNJ students into their lab and discussed SSSCR. Johns-Harris credits Cedeno with initiating the idea of instituting an SSSCR chapter at TCNJ.
A great deal of responsibility and pressure come with maintaining an organization dedicated to such a controversial topic; nonetheless, the SSSCR board is busy raising awareness and educating the campus community about the cause. Last semester, 10 SSSCR members visited Jefferson Medical College to meet with top stem cell researcher Lorraine Iacovitti, PhD, and discuss her research. The SSSCR members hope that with the information they learned, and with more invitations to stem cell researchers to lecture at TCNJ, their group will help students “learn more about stem cell research and make their own decisions on how they feel about it based on the facts, ” said Johns-Harris.