Rockefeller University: Dr. Bonnie Kaiser’s HS Scholars Score!
Rockefeller University has the unique distinction of serving as part high temple to science, having more Nobel laureates that any other university in the country, part free post-graduate education, and part botanic gardens surrounded by acres of green along the banks of the East River. Some of the buildings are old-world, ivy-covered brick and stone, others are steel and glass. Amidst this eclectic architectural backdrop, a select group of about 50 diverse high school seniors from around the United States gather each year to do research under the tutelage of lab heads, post-doctoral candidates, high school teachers all supervised by Dr. Bonnie Kaiser, head of the pre-college science program.
The culminating event takes place in two huge rooms with students displaying their work in poster sessions, discussing each aspect of their work with expertise. To prepare for this event, students learn to present a short paper in their lab each week followed by a poster session to small groups. Students learn scientific writing and critical reading of scientific papers.
Andrew Mui, a rising senior at Dover Sherborn High School in Boston loves biochemistry. Dr. Alice MacKinnon and her lab helped him study how ion channels function and tarantula venoms.
Claire Eden from the Riverdale Country School enjoys AP Bio. Dr. Hugo Mouquet of the Nussenzweig Lab helped her study HIV patients and molecular immunology. “There may even be a vaccine someday”, she notes optimistically.
Ksenia Timachova, a Stuyvesant High School student enjoys studying chemistry, biochemistry and genetics. Her research focused on the protein responsible for controlling antibodies in the human body and how it works. She is enthusiastic about continuing her research during the year.
Heidi Slatkin, a teacher at the NYC Lab School has been teaching at Rockefeller University for 12 summers. During the year she teaches English and biology, transforming those skills into scientific reading and writing (known as the STRAW program) probably inspired by her father, a retired scientist at Brookhaven labs. “The most important requirement for students”, Slatkin avers, is to “come prepared with curiosity.”
Luke De has been a biology teacher and mentor at the Pingry School in Short Hills, New Jersey for the past two years. He also mentors students doing independent research. Three students from Pingry are at Rockefeller U this summer, thanks to Luke, who waxes rhapsodic when describing the program. “Every student has a mentor in the lab; this is real science with total immersion that you can’t get in a regular school. Three to four students this summer will, guaranteed, be MD, PhDs and run their own labs, making great advancements in the world. Success is a combination of drive and talent. If you give these students any word or subject, in one week they will come up with everything!” Luke should recognize talent: he did research for several years at the Genome Research Institute in Cincinnati before going to Rockefeller.
While the lack of scientists and mathematicians in our country is often underscored, the great talent that surfaced at Rockefeller University at the culmination of the summer serves as a testament to the capabilities in the next generation! Kudos to Dr. Bonnie Kaiser for leading the charge.#