English lecturer turned Crohn’s researcher: Chris Peter

By Alex Solari, Opinions and Editorials Editor

You’ve heard people say it: some people are good at math and science, and some are good in the humanities. But why can’t someone be good at both?

Chris Peter is a perfect example of this, as she is a part-time English lecturer, and is also pursuing an undergraduate degree in chemistry and is currently researching Crohn’s disease.

Peter currently teaches English 101 and 102 at UMass Dartmouth, and although she enjoys the subject, science holds a special place in her heart. Peter explains the reason she pursued English rather than the sciences first, and said, “I had undiagnosed celiac disease and missed a lot of school.” She continued, “They thought I was lying. They told me I was stupid and I couldn’t do it.” She said that since she was sick a lot, she read often, and became good at writing. In her career, she stayed close to science by becoming a technical writer.

However, Peter had another hurdle when she became very ill with her first child, but was eventually diagnosed with her illness and got healthier, and pursued her dream of getting an education in the sciences. She thanks her husband and children for helping her pursue her dream.

When asked about her love for science, Peter said, “Chemistry is challenging but its compelling for me and I enjoy it.” She later said, “I was terrified when I first stepped into a lab, but now it’s one of my happy places.”

She wants to spread the message that students should pursue their dreams, and says, “Even if people say ‘oh my gosh I’m afraid’, try it anyway.” She later reiterated, “If you really want to do it, try.” She believes teachers should also be encouraging rather than veer students away from certain subjects.

On top of her undergraduate degree she will be receiving in the Spring, she also has been working on research on Crohn’s disease, and currently is working on a project titled.

“Do cranberry compounds inhibit biofilm formation by organisms associated with Crohn’s Disease?” Peter explains in her proposal that cranberries are known to reduce inflammation and are known to cure urinary tract infections, due to their antibacterial properties, therefore, they could potentially work to treat Crohn’s Disease. For her project, she says that Dr. Catherine Neto, a professor at UMass Dartmouth in the chemistry department has been a great source of support and encouragement, and has helped her through the process.

Peter is interested in Crohn’s disease and the potential benefit of cranberries for sufferers due to her son’s struggle with Crohn’s disease as well as celiac disease. She explained, “My son Jacob has had four years of suffering, he can’t attend school [and] it affects his social life.”

Peter is passionate about finding ways to treat the disease for her son and other sufferers as well, and even plans to study Crohn’s disease in her graduate studies.

If you are interested to talk to Peter about her research, you can visit her in LARTS 201B or send her an email at cpeter@umassd.edu.

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