Lema Abuoqab has always been drawn to science. She chose to attend Tufts University in Boston because the school offers a strong liberal arts education with access to world-class labs and hospitals — the best of both worlds.
However, Abuoqab started at Tufts in the fall of 2020, when undergraduate access to research labs was limited due to COVID-19.
Courtesy of Lema Abuoqab
Lema Abuoqab serves as secretary and director of conferences for the Tufts
University ASBMB Student Chapter.
Luckily, the Tufts American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Student Chapter — also known as the Tufts Biology Research Club, or TBR— quickly adapted to help first-years like Abuoqab. TBR developed the Virtual Adjacent Program, an online journal club that introduced new students to scientific research. Participants improved their skills in reading papers and interpreting data. As active Tufts researchers were invited to join the meetings, students also made valuable connections.
Following one such journal club, Abuoqab was struck by the work of Perrie O’Tierney–Ginn’s laboratory and joined it as an undergraduate researcher in May 2021. Simultaneously, she joined the TBR executive board, or e-board, to play a larger role in the club’s activities.
Abuoqab eagerly dove into research, studying the relationship between physical activity during pregnancy and placental lipid transport. With the help of an ASBMB travel award, she presented her work at the 2022 ASBMB annual meeting in Philadelphia. She loved the excitement of the conference.
“Just being in that atmosphere … was honestly the greatest thing ever,” she said.
Although TBR is a vibrant club, Abuoqab and Ze’ev Drukker, who also serves on the e-board, were the only members to attend the meeting. Afterward, they began brainstorming a way to share the energy of a scientific conference with more club members.
As a result, TBR plans to host its inaugural scientific conference at Tufts in spring 2023, and the members will make it open to all undergraduates across Boston. This spirit is typical of the club, Abuoqab noted.
“We are super dedicated to helping other students get as many opportunities and involved in research as possible,” she said.
This year, Abuoqab is serving as club secretary and the director of conferences, building on her previous experience as speaker series coordinator.
Abuoqab aspires to be a pediatric orthopedic surgeon. She became interested in the field after shadowing at a local hospital, but her younger sister’s scoliosis diagnosis helped cement her decision. Motivated by the words of her sister’s doctor, Abuoqab authored a short booklet, “Embrace Your Brace,” to reassure children that wearing a brace does not limit them.
Her passion for medical and science communication continues. Abuoqab also wrote and illustrated a children’s book, “Eric’s Brain Elementary.” Based on a class project, it takes readers on a fun and factual tour of the brain. Her next venture is focused on the digestive system, and she hopes to develop the concept into a series of books about the human body.