STUDENT LIFE: An Insider’s Guide To ASR

By Anndy Serrano

The Advanced Science Research Program (ASR) is a three year program to which freshman at MCSM are able to apply during the Spring Semester. Participants are then selected by a rigorous application and interview process. Once accepted, students start doing research in their specific field(s) of scientific interest at the beginning of their sophomore year.

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Students initially meet with their instructor (sophomores with Ms. Thompson, and juniors/seniors with Ms. Wing) at 7:30am, where students research articles of their interest. After researching, a mentor will help them develop lab work so that they become accustomed to hands-on research. This program requires a full commitment for three years, and as a ASR student myself, I can say that commitment and time management is required to keep up with the program.

Presented below are insights gathered from three people who are currently part of the ASR program: one sophomore (Osasere), one junior (Fariha), and one senior (Bidisha). Without prior knowledge of the specific questions asked, all responses from the interviewees were answered candidly and to the best of their abilities. Here are their responses.

Why did you want to be part of the ASR Program when you were a freshman?

Bidisha: I wanted to do the ASR program because it gave a pathway to different interests in science. I’ve always wanted to go into medicine because that’s all I knew about. But then ASR offered a different perspective for me and I wanted to try something new. It offered science-related activities to help me research and pursue [various] science topics. It seemed interesting for me, which is why I applied.

Fariha: I wanted to be part of ASR because it is a great opportunity that expands my scientific knowledge, and at the same time leads to work with scientists in scientific fields. I believe science is all about learning (and knowing)about the universe, which I’ve always found interesting. So ASR is going to help me achieve that. Since I’m interested in having a career in science, this will be an extraordinary help and a great experience.

Osasere: I wanted to be a part of ASR because I had an interest in science, and I thought I should pursue what I wanted to do in the future. I listened to what the program had to offer, and it made the most sense for me to join the program to investigate my interest in neuroscience.

How is it being part of ASR?

Bidisha: Being part of ASR was honestly the best experience I’ve ever had. It was the best decision I’ve ever made in my high school career because [here] I have found a community and a family that I got really close to. Not only do we help each other with academics, but we also listen to problems that we all have… and we trust each other to help with any of the obstacles that [we] face during or outside the program. The ASR room became a home to me, and I appreciate being part of it.

Fariha: Being part of a program like ASR is simply exceptional because I learned so much through the years. I also adjusted to college-level reading by dissecting journal articles every month. Furthermore, I received advice on colleges and job careers from researchers and scientists, and from TED talks as well.

Osasere: Being part of the ASR program has its pros and cons, but I can say that I have gotten so much information from it that has definitely helped me. I can’t say that I love waking up [so early] in the morning, but you get used to it. ASR has allowed me to [examine] my future goals, and take the steps to achieve them. So overall I’d have to say that being in the ASR program is a great thing that I decided to do.

How did you choose your specific area of scientific research?

Bidisha: That is a very simple question. In the summer I did some research on my own to get some prior knowledge about what I sort of wanted to pursue. Through that I found out about nanotechnology. Before that, I had no idea what it was. This then, became a passion to pursue, and ASR helped me to reach my goal of finding out more about nanotechnology.

Fariha: The summer before my sophomore year, we had to analyze 20 science-related articles on any topic we wanted. I found out so much about current research studies, that I became engaged in learning more about research. I got exposed to different fields [in science] that made me realize my true interest.

Osasere: I found my specific science research topic when I looked at all my summer science journal articles and saw what they all had in common. I realized that the general field that I liked was neuroscience, and more specifically how emotion plays a role in brain functions. It took me a while to figure out what parts of the brain I was interested in, but I [discovered] that neuroscience was the scientific area that I wanted to investigate. From there, my interest in neuroscience only got bigger, and I decided that that was the topic I needed to work on.

Has this program had an impact on your academic and/or social life?

Bidisha: It has had quite an impact on my academic and social life, but in a helpful way. Academically, this program helped me apply knowledge that I gained through the course to my science classes ahead of time, which was pretty amazing. Socially it has allowed me to step out of my social bubble, because I am sort of an antisocial person. [Being ] with ASR helped me open myself [up] to different people, and I thank ASR for that.

Fariha: I made more friends with the same interests as me, friends that I would not have had without this program. I also got to learn alongside students from the other grades in ASR. They gave me tips to survive the following years, and what to do and not do. Academically, ASR made me more adjusted to whatever comes my way. It improved my time-managing, organization, and presentation skills.

Osasere: The program has had little to do with my academic life because I know how much time I have to spend on what, and when to put my attention to what I need to do for my classes. My social life has been affected; mostly by having to go straight upstairs instead of waiting for my friends in the lunchroom at school in the morning. But I am still able to commit to my friends after school, so it hasn’t negatively affected my social life.

What advice would you give freshman applying for ASR?

Bidisha: I would say that you need to learn how to manage your time, and this has to be something you want to do. This program is not something you [just] put on your resume, it’s something you have to really commit to. You have to come into this program with a passion for science, and you need to have a curious mind, so that you are able to explore a different view of yourself.

Fariha: Anyone applying to ASR should first have a strong interest and commitment to scientific research. Second, the student should be willing to come in [early] for zero period. Third, there may be nights that you’ll be up really late and feel overwhelmed, so be prepared! Don’t worry though, you’ll make great friends that will struggle with you through the journey.

Osasere: Advice I would give to freshmen applying for the ASR program, would be to get prepared for your time to focus on science. If you get accepted into the program, remember that ASR should not become a burden. If it does become a burden you should not make yourself attend the program. Try your best to work out a good schedule in your life for ASR. While in the program look for events in NYC related to your topic and try to attend them.  If you are unsure about the program, ask questions before joining. One last thing, the program starts at 7:30 am, and if you absolutely cannot come, don’t force yourself to wake up too early because it will then cause a negative impact on your grades.


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