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The Red & Black

The student news site of Patchogue-Medford High School

The Red & Black

The Garcia Program at Stony Brook University

How I spent my summer submerged in research and fun.
Photo by Isana Alicea
Isana attended the seven-week intensive Garcia research program at Stony Brook University this summer. She collaborated with professors, graduate students, and other high schoolers from around the world.

This summer I had the honor of being chosen to attend Stony Brook University’s prestigious Garcia Program.

Garcia is an intensive seven-week course for gifted high school students that combines formal instruction with independent research. Over the seven weeks, students work to design original research projects with guidance from Garcia Center faculty, graduate students, and staff.

I was excited to join students from around the world on Stony Brook’s campus.

As a commuter I was concerned that making friends would be a challenge as a majority of the attendees were living on campus for the summer.

When I arrived on the first day, one of my professors from the STEP program at Suffolk Community College greeted me with a smile. I was glad that he was there. He even introduced me to another one of his students, so I had already made a friend before the program started!

I joined the Garcia discord server and connected with many of the other students. Meals at the campus dining halls were a great opportunity to get to know each other. Looking back, it was a glimpse at what college life will look like just a few months from now.

The program began with lectures by professors representing diverse scientific disciplines presenting their research in fields like medical science, material science, engineering, theory and so much more!

It was fascinating to hear first-hand accounts and insights from the forefront of their fields.

During the first few weeks of lectures, I was acquainted with a student who attends Sachem North. It was cool to make a friend who lives so close. We had the opportunity to introduce one of the guest speakers together.

I was nervous to introduce such an important person in front of almost 100 students and staff. What if I pronounced something wrong or left out something important? My friend assured me we would do great, and we did!

Lab work is an important part of the Garcia project. But first we would have to pass a test on fire safety, lab safety and various lab equipment.

We took an informative tour of the facilities which in the heat of summer were quite warm. For ventilation reasons air conditioning is not available in the lab.

As you can imagine, with large groups of students all in one lab wearing lab coats, gloves, and goggles, the heat was sweltering.

We participated in a program wide spin casting experiment to introduce us to proper lab procedures and many of the instruments we would be using throughout our projects.

Once we took the test one of the program leaders, Jess, announced the grades. She named four people, and then paused.

As anticipation filled the room she said, “Those were the only people who passed.”

Unfortunately, I was not one of them. The professors laughed and asked what had happened?! It turns out I just missed passing by one question. Thankfully, after the retake everyone passed, and we were able to begin our research.

After all the lectures it was time to select a project to work on over the summer. I chose to work with graduate students Dr. Aaron Sloutski and Yiwei Fang.

The goal of our project was to investigate the effects of a Rhizobium tropic derived biopolymer on the growth of Bermuda Grass and its soil strength. I worked on this project with seven other students, three from California, one from New Jersey and three were from China.

It was so exciting to meet and work with students from around the world. We worked in Stony Brook’s greenhouse planting and collecting data as well as in the lab, using the Keyence 3D microscope to analyze the roots. We conducted many tests on the polymer such as TGA, HPLC and Rheology, just to name a few.

When we weren’t in our PPE working in the labs, we had always found some way to have fun. We went on many field trips including fishing, canoeing, to the city, and we even spent an evening at an escape room. We had barbeques, a ping pong tournament, and had ice cream socials frequently.

I had so much fun with my new friends. My favorite memory from our various excursions was either my friend being freaked out when we caught a fish or when my group crashed into the bushes while canoeing and desperately tried to avoid capsizing.

At the end of the program, we had a symposium where each group presented their abstract and a brief overview of their findings.

We were joined by a keynote speaker, Dr. Brooke Ellison, who had taught us about ethics in research and organized a magazine exploring the ethics of various disciplines.

I was a part of the Garcia Orchestra comprised of music students that got together a few nights a week to prepare a musical arrangement for the symposium.

The symposium was held in a beautiful auditorium where many family members and friends attended. The families of students who lived far away joined in via zoom.

It was a wonderful experience! Overall, I had an unforgettable time that will benefit me in the years to come.

Currently my group has entered our work to the MRS Conference in Boston and are eagerly awaiting the response to hear if we have been accepted!

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  • A

    Amanda DaiutoOct 3, 2023 at 4:54 pm

    I enjoyed listening to the music you preformed and the presentation you did at your symposium this summer! Great job on the article!

  • T

    Tyler GleasonSep 28, 2023 at 2:55 pm

    Great job Isana! I’m sure your summer there was great!

    • I

      Isana ASep 29, 2023 at 5:39 pm

      Thank you Tyler!! 🙂

      • T

        Tyler GleasonOct 5, 2023 at 4:52 pm

        🙂 You’re welcome!