Student spotlight: Arielle Spalla

Arielle Spalla, a junior pre-med microbiology major, will graduate in the spring, travel for a year and read books she hasn’t had time for during her undergraduate career. Then she’ll enroll at Tufts University School of Medicine. For her capstone, she’s doing a literature review for the lab of Melody Neely, an associate professor of molecular and biomedical sciences, about the role MicroRNAs play in infection.

“MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are short, noncoding RNAs that play a huge role in regulating gene expression and are similar across species. Intracellular bacteria are known to manipulate the host cell’s miRNA for their own benefit, but how exactly they accomplish this and their clinical application in infectious disease are areas of ongoing research. I’ve wanted to pursue a career related to microbiology since I first peered through a microscope in my high school biology class, and hope this foundation will make me a better doctor. Understanding how pathogens operate at a molecular level is crucial to identifying how we can coexist and combat them when necessary. I want to specialize in geriatrics, and the elderly are particularly susceptible to infectious diseases because of their weakened immune systems. I volunteer at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center, transporting patients in wheelchairs and assisting with check-in at the front desk. On campus, I’m involved in the Maine Society for Microbiology, and I love to tutor for Student Support Services and the Tutor Program. My grandparents are my best friends — we cook, shop and watch our favorite TV shows together. Exercise is also a key part of what keeps me sane with a difficult course load. Running is a great way to de-stress, but since moving to Maine, I’ve discovered my love for snowboarding. I love that the student body at UMaine is so passionate. I recently started a new club called Maine Effective Altruism, and together I know we can harness that student energy to make a difference in the lives of our local and global community.”