ARISE Research Progress
The ARISE summer research program provides select New York City high-school students with the opportunity to conduct hands-on laboratory research. Under the guidance of their NYU graduate student mentors, thirty-seven ARISE participants [pictured above] spent seven weeks this summer contributing to the research goals of sixteen labs across the NYU School of Engineering in Downtown Brooklyn, and the NYU Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Washington Square. This week, we visited the ARISE students to learn more about their research experience.
Roy, a rising senior at Staten Island Technical High School, is working alongside Dhvanil and Shantanu in Professor Vikram Kapila’s Mechatronics Lab. Together, they are mapping the motion of a human arm, in order to build a robotic arm which will aid the rehabilitation of stroke patients with hemiparesis (weakness on one side of the body). We asked Roy to describe his experience in the Mechatronics lab.
“I have been an engineer for precisely half my life. Engineering isn’t really new to me. However, it’s nice to be able to practically apply what I’ve learned in the classroom and through experience to the ARISE research program. Mechatronics is the intersection of mechanical, electrical and computer engineering. I find it incredible that high school students can come into a lab and create something so practical and useful. The feeling of figuring something out and solving a problem is really indescribable. You have to experience it for yourself. We do have engineering classes at our high school. In a large high school environment, it’s hard for everyone to apply what they’ve learned. In small individualized groups like this one, we can build things like our AC sensor and robotic arm that really show what’s possible.”
During our visit to Professor Levicky’s Bio-Interfacial and Diagnostics Lab, ARISE student Michele-Iane described learning about life as a researcher as well as learning about the specific research in her lab. Michele-Iane and her partner Samantha Paucar are working with their mentor Ursula Koniges to investigate the ability of various chemicals to aid in detection of small DNA molecules. Potential applications include identification of food and water supply contaminants, personalized medical treatments, and to discovery of molecular mechanisms behind diseases such as cancer.
“At first, my mentor would hold our hand through experiments, but now she is letting go. Lab work is a lot of responsibility, but it is also building my confidence. I love working with the tools, like syringes and the pipettes. One computer program that we used is the Nanodrop. We take a sample of DNA and put it under a machine, and that machine will record the amount of light absorbed. Seeing the visual measurements on the computer screen is really cool. My main goal coming into the ARISE program was to get a feel of engineering. I actually learned a lot about how research lab life works here. The graduate students here work as a team. They call themselves lab siblings, and I love the whole comradery of the lab. It’s awesome to be a part of this experience. I’ll remember this as probably the most productive summer of my life so far. Before going into junior year, I feel pumped and excited because I’ve been learning all summer. I’m taking this extra data analysis class for my junior year coming up, and I’m doing actual data analysis right now. In the future, I will thank myself for doing this. I feel like I’m helping myself and ARISE is helping me”.
Vicente, a rising junior at Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design, was one of the first NYU Science of Smart Cities students during the program’s pilot year in 2012, as a middle school student. Now, Vincente is back at NYU investigating the effects of pile penetration (driving columns of wood, metal, or concrete into the ground to support building construction) on surrounding soil with his mentor Sophia Mercurio in Professor Iskander’s Soil Mechanics lab.
“The first day I came in, I thought I was going to get a lecture about everything I was going to do this summer. Instead, I started out doing real lab work. I was surprised to find that I could actually do hands-on activities on my own, without my mentor constantly giving instructions. This is college work, and I was surprised that I could do it on my own. In my high school, the science and math classes involve presentations of what scientists are doing. When I come here to do research with Sophia, I get hands-on experience of what I see in the videos and presentations. I’ve always thought I was going to be a civil engineer. Going into the lab has actually fueled my passion for civil engineering. My expectation of a scientist was someone who was always in the lab, 24/7. However, the scientists I work with in the lab are real people and not robots. They are fully committed to their work, but they also have time to take care of themselves. The ARISE experience prepared me for what I’m going to be doing. If I’m going to get into a STEM field, now I know what to expect.”