World Science Academy Visits ASRC Laboratories

Thirty high school students and teachers from across all five New York City boroughs visited laboratories at the CUNY Advanced Science Research Center (ASRC) on Monday, February 29 as part of the World Science Festival’s World Science Academy.

The students, guided by ASRC researchers and facility managers, learned about each ASRC research initiative and saw several demonstrations in the core facilities and laboratories as a part of the Academy program. The Academy—a pre-college program that provides exclusive access to renowned scientists in a multitude of environments—is one of many partnerships the ASRC participates in to bolster educational opportunities for high school and college students in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Members of each of the ASRC’s five flagship initiatives gave demonstrations of the type of research they are conducting. Highlights included:

  • Macromolecule animations from Structural Biology Initiative Associate Professor Amedee des Georges which showed how structural biologists study protein structure to learn more about how they function;
  • An in-lab demonstration by Nanoscience Initiative Director Rein V. Ulijn of the preparation of gel samples and a viewing of the powerful electronic microscopes which will be used to analyze them later;
  • A walkthrough of the future Data Visualization Room by Environmental Sciences Initiative Associate Director Anthony Cak. The room will be used by researchers across disciplines to crunch massive amounts of data into robust animations and interactive charts and graphs.

After the tours, the students questioned ASRC scientists about their respective career paths. A common theme was how to decide which field to pursue in a world that is rapidly changing. One student expressed how she is feeling a lot of pressure to make the right choice between chemistry, physics or biology. Kevin H. Gardner, Director of the Structural Biology Initiative, said the best way to find your path is to try as many disciplines as possible.

“Do the experiment! Take advantage of different opportunities that come your way and these experiences will help you decide what you’re passionate about,” he said.

Both Elisa Riedo, a Professor with the Nanoscience Initiative, and Zachary Tessler, a Research Assistant Professor and manager of the Environmental Sciences Initiative’s Coastal Science Synthesis Facility, reiterated the importance of exploration while Riedo also noted mathematics as a cornerstone of any potential STEM career.

“Regardless of what field you choose – whether it be in physics, biology, or economics – a solid foundation in mathematics is essential,” she said.

The students and teachers were encouraged to stay in touch about future opportunities and were also invited to visit the ASRC’s Science Discovery & Education Center, which is expected to open in Winter 2016/Spring 2017.


About the ASRC: The CUNY Advanced Science Research Center (ASRC) is a University-wide venture that elevates CUNY’s legacy of scientific research and education through initiatives in five distinctive, but increasingly interconnected disciplines: Nanoscience, Photonics, Structural Biology, Neuroscience and Environmental Sciences. Led by Dr. Gillian Small, Vice Chancellor for Research and the ASRC’s executive director, the center is designed to promote a unique, interdisciplinary research culture. Researchers from each of the initiatives work side by side in the ASRC’s core facilities, sharing equipment that is among the most advanced available. Funding for the ASRC from New York State is gratefully acknowledged.

About World Science Academy: World Science Academy is a pre-college program for New York City high school students and educators that provides exclusive access to renowned scientists in a multitude of environments. With in-person and online activities tailored to student interests, high school students can gain a lifelong interest in the sciences while teachers advance their own learning. Great minds inspire greatness in others. World Science Academy’s distinguished scientists include Brian Greene, Nora Volkow, Lee Berger, and Ellen Stofan.