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Stewart studies stem cells in Hawaii PDF Print E-mail
Written by Becca Brandt   

A trip to Hawaii is usually characterized by relaxing on the beach, soaking up the sun and surfing on the Pacific. Rarely does the description include adipose-derived stem cell research, but for 2011 Holyoke High School graduate Ella Stewart, stem cell research is the basis for her Hawaiian adventure.

Through the Ronald W. Reagan Leadership Fellowship, named for the 40th President and 1932 graduate of Eureka College, Stewart is able to study with Tissue Genesis, Inc. in Honolulu, Hawaii June 4-Aug. 7.

In order to be considered for the internship, Stewart was required to submit a resumé and cover letter detailing the type of work she wanted to do.

Working under the head scientist, Stewart is the sole intern in her department. Three other interns are working in the NASA department at Tissue Genesis, developing a payload chamber that NASA will send into space and use to conduct experiments.

One of Stewart’s projects allows her to get a closer look at the NASA payload chamber as she is writing and formatting the schematics and informational document for the NASA team.

Much of the work Stewart is doing is background research, because the company is in the process of setting up their labs after a move. She has just learned about all of the equipment and hopes to be doing lab work by the end of her mentorship.

Stewart’s biggest assignment with Tissue Genesis is to write a review on adipose tissue-derived extracellular matrices and biological scaffolding and their potential. A large amount of research is required to create her synopsis and Stewart plans to be working on it through mid-July. Her paper will be utilized to implement an action plan at Tissue Genesis while benefitting her own research.


In her spare time, Ella Stewart has had the chance to go hiking during her stay in Hawaii. On one of her adventures, she met up with a hiking group to hike Manana Falls.

Another piece of research involves evaluating the effects lyophilozation or freeze-drying has on the extracellular matrix. Then she must determine the best way to preserve it while finding the most efficient way to decellularize and delipidize it.

In addition, Stewart completed a short review paper on the adverse effects of microgravity on cell function, growth and metabolism, specifically the effects on stem cells.

The work Stewart is doing this summer is giving her real-world experience as she pursues a degree in biology.

Stewart had the option to pursue a mentorship at a Christian hospital in India, but Tissue Genesis aligned more closely with her line of study.

As a Fellow, Stewart has had many opportunities to travel, serve and meet new people.

The fellowship is a scholarship based on leadership, service and academic excellence. During the school year, Stewart does workshops and retreats through the fellowship.

To keep her scholarship Stewart has volunteered in the same day services department and assisted patients at the local hospital. Opportunities to travel to London, England with the other 2015 Reagan Fellows and meet Sandra Day O’Connor in April have also been made possible by the fellowship.

Stewart was selected from 101 semifinalists by Eureka College in Eureka, Ill. as a Reagan Fellow, along with five other students, for the Class of 2015. As a Fellow, she is required to complete two internships either in the United States or abroad during the summers of her sophomore and junior year. This is Stewart’s first mentorship.

While in Hawaii, Stewart has been exploring the city. The island offers an abundance of hiking locations and beaches she hopes to visit.

She has joined a local church and meets with Wesley Foundation, a campus organiztion who meets on Monday nights and serves food to the homeless on Wednesday afternoons. Her goal is to learn to snorkel, surf and play the ukulele.

Although, there are more places to go and people to see in Honolulu, Stewart says the hospitable environment is similar to Holyoke.

Stewart is the daughter of Troy and Mardi Stewart of Holyoke.


Holyoke Enterprise June 27, 2013