Article by Phoenix writer Grace Garcia ’23:
Junior Michelle Paszek had the opportunity to engage in scientific inquiry this past summer as part of the Hofstra University Summer Science Research Program. She was able to experience hands-on learning in the Bioengineering Department, studying with Associate Professor Roche deGuzman. Dr. deGuzman’s research interests include testing different materials, including a medication (PEG) that when utilized as a solid or gel material could potentially be used in the replacement of intervertebral discs in people with spine injuries or severe arthritis to maintain mobility and relieve pain.
In the program, each student engaged in safe lab practices and protocol seminars prior to beginning research and was paired with faculty in their area of interest. Michelle’s research was a competitive analysis between unbleached and bleached black hair extracts. To study the components in the hair, she implemented an extraction process that broke disulfide bonds and obtained the water-soluble fractions. She examined and presented a poster on the most producing melanin concentration protein and how it’s going to affect residual hairs.
One other project that Michelle Paszek found interesting was regarding the differences in outcomes between online learning versus in person learning. Michelle stated, “It was very interesting to see the research, as we engaged in online learning during COVID.”
The student population in the research program consisted of some rising high school juniors, rising high school seniors, and university graduate students who participated as teaching assistants. Most students were from New York, but some were from New Jersey and even Florida. In addition to learning about engaging in official research, Michelle stated that the experience encouraged her to expand her horizons and try new things that are outside of her comfort zone. She didn’t originally have extensive experience in biology or chemistry, so she was nervous because she didn’t know what to expect and was concerned about her lack of college level experience. Professor deGuzman reassured her that she will learn everything in the labs.
Additionally, the program offered mini-seminars outside of regular lab time. The weekly sessions were completely optional, but if the student was interested, they could receive a list of varied topics and attend. The professors would discuss their research interests and talk about what they have been studying. Michelle stated, “One of my favorite seminars was given by Dr. Russ Burke and he talked about examining coyotes that live on Long Island.”
Overall, Michelle described the program as “a really great learning atmosphere because everyone was so friendly. The college students were so supportive and willing to explain what was going on and what they were doing in the lab. I never thought in a million years that I would be considering pursuing biochemistry in college. Mr. Sorkin and Mrs. Frem came to support me during the symposium and I just really want to thank them for that because it meant a lot to me.”
The Hofstra University Summer Science Research Program is selective and requires submission of three short essays, a letter of recommendations, and an indication of area of interest. The student is able to choose to participate in research in behavioral science, psychology, ecology, conservation biology, microbiology, cell genetics, chemistry, biochemistry, geology, paleontology, climate & meteorology, computer science engineering, sustainability/environmental science or mathematics. Lastly, participants engage in a poster presentation that highlights their research and students go on to enter their research posters in science competitions both local and national including the Intel and Regeneron science talent search competition. The program is currently accepting applications for summer and the deadline is March 31, 2023. https://www.hofstra.edu/summer-science-research-program.html