Research Confirms STEM Ambitions

Now in its second year, the ARISE program, funded by the Pinkerton Foundation, is in full swing and in the 5th of its 7-week schedule.  The 35 participating New York City high school students have been conducting research in 14 labs across the NYU School of Engineering in Brooklyn and the NYU Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Washington Square. Graduate student mentors have been guiding them during their research, which is designed to contribute to the lab’s overall research goals.

We visited with the students and asked them how their research experience had changed their perceptions about life in a lab, plans for college, and their interest in STEM pursuits.


Raima, left, and Olena, right, at work in the lab

Raima, a Queens Collegiate rising senior, is working in Professor Christine Vogel’s Systems Proteomics Lab in the NYU Department of Biology. Her mentor is Ana, a graduate student. Raima, along with her partner Olena, was preparing DNA from mutant strains of yeast for PCR, a process that will amplify the DNA, making millions of copies. The samples will then be tested to confirm the deletion of certain genes.

The lab experience is slightly different than what Raima expected. “Processes are a lot longer and more informative. On TV it looks a lot easier.” Raima already knew that she was interested in biology but, says that participating in research has made something abstract into a very real experience and has increased her commitment to STEM education. “Before it was just an idea and now …”


Jason and Sylvia at the lab bench

Jason is a rising senior at New World High School working in Professor Andreas Hochwagen’s Chromosome Inheritance Lab under his mentor Viji. Jason, like Raima, said that the hands-on experience helped him to picture himself as a scientist. “Before I wouldn’t have known if I wanted to have this as a career but now I can see myself doing it.”  He’s also considering applying to NYU!

His lab mate Sylvia, a rising junior at NYCiSchool said, “Now more so than before, I want to have a career in STEM.  The first day we didn’t know what we were doing and yesterday we poured a gel on our own.” Sylvia describes that the independence given to ARISE students in the graduate-level labs is very different from her high school experience. “I think it’s cool that [we’re given experiments] where we don’t know what will happen because the only other experiments I’ve done are in a class where you know what the outcome of the experiment is.”


Jordan with her robotic arm

Jordan, a rising junior at Bedford Academy High School is working in Professor Vikram Kapila’s Mechatronics Lab under her mentor, Yash. Jordan has been involved in robotics since joining the robotics club in 6th grade and also had prior computer programming experience after learning the C++ programming language from her dad. She built a robotic arm with pieces from a 3D printer and also wrote the program to control the arms movements. Jordan was looking for a challenge and found it in ARISE. After participation in her school’s robotics club with Lego Mindstorms kits she said, “This was sort of the next step for me…This made me want to do it [pursue a stem degree] more! I had a new challenge in front of me and I was able to take it on. If I could, I would be in this [lab] all day!”


Angela soldering wires for her marine robot research

Angela, a rising junior from Stuyvesant High School, is working in Professor Maurizio Porifiri’s Dynamical Systems Lab with her mentor, Jeff. Angela applied to the program after finding out about it from two friends who participated last year. She was soldering wires on the controls for an underwater robot that would be taken later that day to the Gowanus Canal. The robot is programmed to “swim” through the water and collect data on environmental quality. “It will take water quality and GPS readings: dissolved oxygen, ph, salinity. I’m working on soldering wires to power the water sensor and GPS.”  Of the effect of ARISE on her career plans, she said, “I plan to go on to engineering. If anything it (ARISE) exposed me to what it’s really going to be like. I feel like it’s a great experience. I have a lot of opportunity here to get hands-on experience that I wouldn’t get anywhere else.”