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Why Attend the Garcia Research Scholar Program?

January 5, 2024
By AdmissionSight
Two college students are walking in campus and talking.

Why Attend the Garcia Research Scholar Program?

Have you ever dreamed of diving deep into the world of research, even before stepping onto a college campus? If yes, then the Garcia Research Scholar Program might just be the opportunity you’re looking for. Designed for high school students with a passion for exploration and innovation, this program opens up a world where curiosity leads to real-world impact. In this blog post, we’re going to discuss everything about the Garcia Research Scholar Program – what it is, why it’s a golden opportunity for you, and how you can be a part of it.

This post is your one-stop guide to understanding the Garcia Research Scholar Program inside out. Whether you’re just exploring options or are set on applying, you’ll find valuable information to help you on your journey. So, buckle up and get ready to embark on an exciting exploration into the world of research and innovation with the Garcia Research Scholar Program.

What is the Garcia Research Scholar Program?

The Garcia Center for Polymers at Engineered Interfaces was founded in 1996 and is named after the late Queens College professor Narciso Garcia, who was a pioneer in the integration of education and research.

The Center focuses on the integration of materials research with tissue engineering, biomaterials, drug delivery systems, sustainable energy, nanocomposites, and, recently, additive manufacturing. The Center also supports innovation through entrepreneurship and has multiple collaborations with industry and national laboratories, both in the US and abroad.

The Research Scholar Program at the Garcia Center for Polymers at Engineered Interfaces offers high school teachers and students the opportunity to perform research at the forefront of polymer science and technology together with Garcia faculty and staff. Students work as part of focused research teams and are taught to make original contributions of interest to the scientific community.

In addition to entering national competitions, the students are encouraged to publish in refereed scientific journals and to present their results at national conferences. The program’s goal is to give students the opportunity to experience the excitement that research and discovery in science can bring. The program has no set time limits, as research is a continually growing, lifetime experience. Students can use the program as a resource long after its completion and even after graduation.

Unique Features

What distinguishes the Garcia Research Scholar Program from other research opportunities is its holistic approach to the scientific process. The program provides a research experience at three different levels: for high school students, college undergraduates, and rising seniors, as well as four openings for high school teachers in the summer program.

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1. High School Students

The Research Experience for High School Students is an intensive seven-week program for gifted students that combines formal instruction with independent research and allows students to design original research projects with guidance from Garcia Center faculty, students, and staff. Students can continue in the Mentor Program during the academic year, which allows them to plan a research schedule with a faculty mentor throughout the year.

Pre-arranged transportation and class schedules are coordinated with local school boards to enable students from a large geographical area to enroll in the program. Almost three hundred high school students have participated in the mentor program since its inception.

The students have consistently won recognition for their research through national competitions such as the Long Island Science and Engineering Fair, the New York State Science & Engineering Fair, and the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair. Students have also gone on to be published in refereed journals, have been awarded patents, have been inducted into the National Young Inventor’s Hall of Fame, and have been accepted to universities or professional programs of their choice.

2. Undergraduates

The Garcia Program also hosts a research program for college undergraduate and rising seniors. The Research Experience for Undergraduates program (REU) is a seven-week summer program where undergraduate students work in teams with high school students, high school teachers, graduate students, and postdocs on specific research projects of their interest.

Many of the REU participants were former high school students who returned for multiple summers. Some students prefer to continue working on the same project with the goal of eventual publication, while others opt to sample different projects and gain experience in diverse fields.

3. High School Teachers

The Garcia Center for Polymers has four openings in the Research Experience for High School Teachers (RET) summer program. The summer program lasts 7 weeks, starting the last week of June, and pays a stipend.

Candidates can work independently or join existing research groups doing research on polymer blends, composite materials, polymer/inorganic surfaces and interfaces, protein, and DNA surface interactions, polymer recycling, polymer materials engineering, theoretical modeling, x-ray and neutron scattering at Brookhaven National Laboratory, electron, x-ray and scanning force microscopy, Infrared spectroscopy, and secondary ion mass spectrometry.

Candidates will publish in refereed research journals and attend professional conferences while having the opportunity to enrich the lives and minds of students and help them learn and achieve their dreams.

A woman is smiling while wearing headphones and watching on her laptop.

In essence, the Garcia Research Scholar Program is more than an academic venture; it’s a community, a nurturing ground for curiosity, and a catalyst for future success in the scientific world.

Where is the Garcia Research Scholar Program Being Held?

The Garcia Research Scholar Program unfolds within the esteemed halls of the Garcia Center at Stony Brook University. A beacon for polymers and engineered interfaces, the Garcia Center stands as a collaborative effort uniting academia, industry, and government labs. Funded by the National Science Foundation’s MRSEC program, it’s a place where the tools and talents of diverse institutions converge, driving forward the study of polymer interface science.

Environment and Surroundings

Stony Brook University’s campus, the Garcia Center’s home, is a fertile ground for innovation and collaboration. Here, students will find themselves in a setting that’s at the forefront of research on thin films, coatings, nanostructured materials, and composites—all aimed at advancing technologies vital to a range of U.S. industries.

The Center isn’t just about research; it’s also a community cornerstone, extending its reach to offer technological support to local educational and industrial entities. This initiative reflects the legacy of Dr. Narciso Garcia, whose vision for a center of excellence in science education continues to guide the center’s mission. Students walking these paths are following in the footsteps of a man who dedicated his life to fostering interdisciplinary collaboration and academic excellence.

As scholars step onto the Stony Brook campus, they’ll be greeted by a thriving academic landscape, where state-of-the-art facilities are as common as the green spaces and communal areas that pepper the grounds. It’s a place where young minds can not only delve into the complexities of science but also find a community, resources, and support that extend beyond the lab. From the bustling student centers to the quiet nooks perfect for study and reflection, the Garcia Center at Stony Brook University is a fertile breeding ground for the next generation of scientists and leaders.

What is the Garcia Research Scholar Program Like?

After the extensive application and selection process, students from all over the country (and even other parts of the world!) gather together at Stony Brook University in New York, where they meet other students just like them who will become the colleagues they will work and collaborate with for the next few months. Dormitories are available for those who don’t live in the area or can’t commute. At the end of the program, many students stay on even after its official closing date to continue research projects with the friends and mentors they have met.

At the start of the program, students are given three days of instruction on laboratory safety, after which they must pass a written test to be allowed to work in the labs. They are then presented with a variety of daily lectures on current research topics given by those who are conducting the work. The students also participate in group experiments where they learn such techniques as spin-casting polymer thin films and measuring their thicknesses with tools like an ellipsometer.

Portrait of diverse student in a room

Besides the academic immersion, there are scheduled barbecues, softball games, a canoe trip, a fishing excursion, and a museum trip. Students support each other in the lab and bond in the dorms, forming lasting friendships and are open to new networking opportunities. They celebrate each other’s successes and comfort each other’s disappointments.

As the initial days pass, the students, armed with their new knowledge and experience, begin to develop a particular area of interest of their own, and they are grouped with mentors according to their chosen fields. Within the groups, they are further divided into specific research experiments, either working alone or with one or two partners, and the real research begins.

Students in the Garcia program receive valuable mentorship from high school teachers, graduate students conducting their own research projects, and professors who are experts in their field. Mentoring such a large group of high school students takes a sizable staff to ensure proper lab procedures are maintained. By the time August rolls around, fewer mistakes are made, and the students can focus on collecting actual data and are able to analyze and draw conclusions through critical thinking.

A symposium of student research is held on the last day of the formal program. Each project is summarized on one PowerPoint slide that explains the experiment and results, which the student researchers present to an audience of students, parents, science teachers, high school principals, and Stony Brook faculty.

Students are able to show how much they’ve learned and grown. A variety of topics are showcased, such as “Electrode Catalyst Efficiency,” “Power Conversion Efficiency,” “Nanoscale Morphology of Photovoltaic Cells,” and “Characterization of Injectable Enzymatically Cross-Linked Gelatin Based Hydrogels.”

A yearbook is compiled and distributed that not only contains the photos of all the participants and informal group pictures of the trips they took together but abstracts of each project as well. But the mentoring does not end there. The students return home to compose 20-page research papers for the Siemens Competition, Intel (now Regeneron) Science Talent Search, and other science contests, and they are guided by the Garcia staff and their mentors in the process.

a female student holding on to her medal

Approximately 17-25 Garcia students become Siemens Semifinalists, Regional Finalists, or National Finalists each year, even traveling to Washington D.C. for the National Finals. Garcia participants also win major prizes in the Intel Science Talent Search, Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, Junior Science and Humanities Symposium, and many other competitions.

A few students have even achieved patents for their work. Some students write and submit papers to professional refereed publications and present their projects at the American Physical Society and the Materials Research Society Fall Symposium.

Why Should You Go to the Garcia Research Scholar Program?

Embarking on the Garcia Research Scholar Program is like unlocking a treasure chest of opportunities. Here, not only do you get to put on a scientist’s coat and dive into real-world research, but you also develop a toolkit of skills that are invaluable for your future. You’ll learn how to ask the right questions, how to experiment, analyze data, and solve complex problems. These are skills that colleges and employers look for, and you’ll be ahead of the game.

You’ll work on projects that matter—projects that tackle big issues like sustainable energy and advanced medical therapies. Imagine being part of a team that’s pushing the boundaries of what we know about materials that could one day power our homes or heal our bodies. It’s hands-on learning at its best, and it’s all happening in a university setting, which means you’ll get a taste of college life while you’re still in high school.

Long-Term Impact

What you learn at the Garcia Program can set the direction for your entire career. It’s not just about the research you do over the summer; it’s about the doors that experience opens for you. College admissions officers and scholarship committees take notice when they see the Garcia Program on your application. It says you’re committed, you’re curious, and you’ve got hands-on experience in your field.

But the impact goes beyond college applications. The problem-solving abilities, the technical skills, and the collaborative experience you gain here will give you an edge in any career you choose. Plus, you’ll join a network of Garcia alumni—a group of motivated, like-minded individuals who are making waves in science, engineering, and beyond.

Whether you’re dreaming of launching a startup, becoming a researcher, or leading scientific initiatives, the Garcia Research Scholar Program is a stepping stone to that future. It’s an investment in yourself that pays dividends for years to come. So if you’re ready to challenge yourself, to learn, and to achieve something extraordinary, the Garcia Program is where you want to be.

How to Get into the Garcia Research Scholar Program

Eligibility Criteria

To be considered for the Garcia Research Scholar Program, here’s what you need:

High School Students:

  • Age Requirement: Must be at least 16 years old by July 4, 2024.
  • Academic Achievement: Maintain an unweighted GPA of 95/100 (3.8/4.0).
  • Standardized Tests: Have scores in at least the 60th percentile (SAT/Regents).
  • Subject Proficiency: Completion of at least 3 of the following subjects, with Honors or AP being a plus:
      • English
      • Chemistry
      • Mathematics/Calculus
      • Physics
      • Biology
  • Extracurriculars: Participation in extracurricular activities, volunteer work, and other non-academic pursuits.
  • International Students: Must have valid documentation to stay in the US for the program duration legally. The program does not support visa applications.

Undergraduate Students:

  • Enrollment Status: Must be a matriculated undergraduate student or a rising college freshman.
  • Research Experience: Previous research is a plus but not necessary.

Teachers:

  • Professional Status: Must be actively teaching as a teacher or professor.
  • Research Experience: Having prior research experience is advantageous but not required.

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Selection Process

Now, let’s talk about getting selected. It starts with a careful review of your application. The selection committee is looking for those standout grades and test scores, but they’re also reading between the lines. They want to see your passion for science and your potential as a researcher.

After the initial review, you might be called for an interview, where you get the chance to shine in person (or virtually). This is where your communication skills and your ability to think on your feet will be important.

Preparation Tips

To boost your chances of getting into the Garcia Program, start by nailing the basics: get your grades up, do well on your standardized tests, and choose your courses wisely.

But also, think about your story. What makes you different? What challenges have you overcome? What have you achieved, in science or elsewhere, that shows your potential? Craft this narrative carefully in your application essays.

Get involved in science outside the classroom. Join a science club, start a project, volunteer—anything that shows you’re serious about the field. If you’ve got international credentials, make sure all your paperwork is in order. Double-check visa requirements and deadlines.

For undergrads and teachers, if you’ve done research before, great—highlight that. If not, emphasize your passion for learning and your commitment to education. And one more thing: start early. This isn’t something to cram for the night before the deadline. Plan, prepare, and polish your application. Show the Garcia Program that you’re ready to take on the challenge.

How to Apply to the Garcia Research Scholar Program

To apply for the Garcia Research Scholar Program, you’ll need to put together several key pieces:

  1. Application Form: Start with the official application form, which captures your basic information and details about your academic background.
  2. Transcript of Grades: Your school will need to send over your transcript. This document will show your unweighted GPA and the relevant courses you’ve taken.
  3. Letters of Recommendation: You’ll need three of them. One must come from a Science Coordinator or Teacher, and there’s a special cover sheet to attach. Make sure each letter is in a sealed envelope, as per the application instructions.
  4. Standardized Test Scores: Include copies of your SAT/ACT or Regents scores, ensuring they meet or exceed the 60th percentile.
  5. Registration Fee: A non-refundable fee of $50 is required with your application. Checks should be made payable to “SUNY Stony Brook,” or if you’re wiring funds, include the receipt in your application package.

After submitting your application, expect a period of review, which could last a few weeks to a couple of months. Interviews, if required, will follow this review period, with final decisions typically announced a few weeks thereafter.

Insider Tips

To create a compelling application for the Garcia Research Scholar Program:

1. Tailor Your Essays

Your essays are a window into your world for the selection committee. They’re not just looking for a list of your accomplishments; they want to see the person behind the grades. Write from the heart about what drives your passion for science. Is there a moment when you knew this was the path for you? Share that moment.

student works on her laptop in a university classroom

Discuss how the Garcia Program aligns with your goals. Be specific about why this program, with its unique focus on polymer science and research opportunities, is the ideal fit for you. Show them your curiosity, your determination, and how you plan to make the most out of this opportunity.

2. Recommendations Matter

Think carefully about who you choose to write your recommendation letters. It should be someone who has seen you in action, whether it’s leading a project, tackling a complex problem, or inspiring others. This person should be able to provide concrete examples of your work ethic, your team spirit, and your innovative spirit. Reach out to them well in advance, provide context on what the Garcia Program means to you, and discuss the key points they might cover to support your application. A genuine and insightful recommendation can be a deciding factor in your favor.

3. Quality Over Quantity

It can be tempting to list every single activity you’ve been involved in, but a long list doesn’t always mean a strong application. Instead, focus on the experiences where you’ve really dug in—where you’ve put in the time, shown leadership, or made a measurable impact. Did you start a recycling program, lead a science club project, or tutor other students in chemistry? Those are the stories that will stand out. They show commitment, initiative, and the ability to make things happen.

4. Attention to Detail

Go through your application with a fine-tooth comb. Check for typos, make sure every field is filled in correctly, and that you’re providing exactly what’s asked for. A mistake could suggest that you’re not taking the application seriously. Have a teacher, parent, or friend review everything. A fresh pair of eyes can catch things you might have missed. This attention to detail will show the selection committee that you are meticulous and conscientious—traits of a good researcher.

5. Early Submission

Try to submit your application a week or two before the deadline. Technical glitches, postal delays, or unexpected life events can happen. Submitting early helps ensure that none of these will prevent your application from arriving on time. Plus, it demonstrates good time management skills and eagerness for the opportunity. Once you’ve submitted, you can relax and prepare for the next steps, confident that you’ve put your best foot forward.

By following these guidelines, you’re setting yourself up for the best chance of success in the application process for the Garcia Research Scholar Program.

How Hard Is It to Get Into the Garcia Research Scholar Program?

Gaining a spot in the Garcia Research Scholar Program is no small feat. The selectivity of the program is due to several factors. Firstly, its reputation as a leading research program means that many of the brightest young minds are vying for a place. Additionally, the program’s rigorous academic environment and the opportunity to work with renowned researchers make it highly sought after.

To stand out in such a competitive field, it’s crucial to excel academically and show a strong passion for science and research. A standout application will also reflect unique personal attributes, such as leadership skills, initiative, and the ability to work well in a team. Your application should tell a story that not only highlights your achievements but also your potential to contribute to the Garcia community and the field of science.

Alternative Plans

If you apply to the Garcia Program and don’t get accepted, don’t be discouraged. There are plenty of other ways to explore your passion for science and build a strong foundation for your future. Consider applying to other research programs or seeking out internships in local universities or companies. You can also start a science club at school, embark on a personal research project, or volunteer with organizations that promote STEM education.

To improve your chances for next time, ask for feedback on your application to understand areas for improvement. Continue to excel in your science courses, seek out additional academic challenges, and look for ways to demonstrate your leadership and problem-solving skills. Remember, resilience is a key characteristic of a successful scientist, so use this experience as a learning opportunity and a stepping stone for your next application.

When Does the Garcia Research Scholar Program Take Place?

The Garcia Research Scholar Program is set to unfold from June 26 to August 9, 2024. During these dates, you can expect a full daily schedule that immerses you in the world of research.

How Long is the Garcia Research Scholar Program?

Spanning seven weeks, the Garcia Research Scholar Program is meticulously designed to provide a deep dive into polymer science and engineering research.

During these seven weeks, participants are fully engaged in a world that mirrors the rigors and demands of professional scientific research. Each day is a blend of academic learning, practical laboratory work, and collaborative project development. You’ll start your mornings with informative sessions or discussions, leading into hands-on lab work where you’ll be actively participating in groundbreaking research activities.

The afternoons are typically dedicated to further lab work or project development, interspersed with team meetings where you discuss your findings and plan next steps with your peers and mentors. Throughout the program, you’ll also have opportunities to attend workshops and special sessions aimed at developing additional skills crucial for a budding researcher, such as data analysis, scientific writing, and effective presentation techniques.

This daily commitment is substantial, usually spanning the majority of the daytime hours. It’s a testament to the program’s commitment to providing a realistic and comprehensive experience of life as a researcher. Students are expected to demonstrate the same level of dedication and professionalism that would be required in a real-world research environment. This includes not only the time spent in the lab but also time for independent study, project planning, and collaboration outside of structured hours.

In-Depth Learning and Research

A significant portion of each day is devoted to hands-on learning in the lab. Here, you’ll apply the theories and concepts learned in morning sessions to real research projects. This practical application is where much of the learning solidifies, as you experiment, observe, and adjust based on real-time results. You’ll learn to use sophisticated equipment, adhere to lab safety protocols, and collaborate with a team – all essential skills for a career in science.

Collaboration and Teamwork

The program strongly emphasizes teamwork and collaboration. You’ll be working closely with other high school students, undergraduate mentors, and experienced researchers. This environment fosters a community of learning where ideas are shared, and challenges are tackled collectively. The diversity of perspectives and experiences in your team will enrich your learning experience and provide a broader understanding of the research process.

Final Presentation or Project

As the program nears its end, you will prepare for the final presentation or project showcase. This event is a significant milestone in the Garcia Research Scholar Program. It provides a platform for you to present your research findings to an audience that includes not only your peers and mentors but also members of the academic community and sometimes the general public.

a group of student having a debate

This final presentation is more than a mere academic requirement; it’s the culmination of your hard work, learning, and dedication over the seven weeks. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate your research skills, your ability to analyze and interpret data, and your capability to communicate complex scientific concepts effectively. The feedback you receive during this presentation is invaluable, offering insights that can guide your future academic and professional pursuits.

Preparing for the Future

Beyond the immediate experience and learning, the Garcia Research Scholar Program is designed to prepare you for future academic and career paths in science. The skills, knowledge, and experiences you gain here will be foundational for your college applications, future research opportunities, and professional endeavors in the science and engineering fields. The program is not just about the seven weeks you spend at the Garcia Center; it’s about setting the stage for a lifetime of curiosity, learning, and discovery in the world of science.

Yearly Cycle

The program takes place annually, typically aligning with the summer break of the academic calendar to accommodate the schedules of high school students. This timing allows you to dive deep into research without the distraction of regular school responsibilities. Each year, the exact dates may shift slightly to fit the best seven-week period within the summer vacation time frame.

When is the Deadline to Apply to the Garcia Research Scholar Program?

For those aiming to be a part of the Garcia Research Scholar Program in the summer of 2024, it’s crucial to keep track of key dates and deadlines. The application process is time-sensitive, and missing a deadline could mean missing out on this incredible opportunity.

For high school students, the deadline for submitting your application is March 1st, 2024. Remember, this means that all your materials, including your application form, essays, transcripts, recommendation letters, and any other required documents, should be postmarked by this date. It’s not just about sending them off; they need to be in the mail and on their way by March 1st.

If you’re an undergraduate student looking to participate in the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) aspect of the program, your deadline is slightly later, on March 20, 2024.

For high school teachers interested in the Research Experience for Teachers (RET) program, your application needs to be postmarked by March 1st, 2024, the same as the high school students.

Remember, these timelines are there to ensure that the selection process is fair and thorough. To give yourself the best chance, start preparing your application well before the deadline. This includes requesting transcripts and recommendation letters early, as these can take time to gather.

Lastly, while it’s important to adhere to these deadlines, don’t rush your application. Quality is key, so take the time to ensure that each component of your application is as strong as it can be.

When Do I Find Out About My Application to the Garcia Research Scholar Program?

After you’ve sent off your application to the Garcia Research Scholar Program, the wait begins. Typically, the process from submission to notification takes several weeks. The exact timeline can vary, but right after the application deadline, the program’s selection committee starts reviewing all the applications. They’re looking at every part of your application, so it’s important to be patient during this time.

Side view at multi-ethnic group of students using laptop while studying in college

Remember, these timelines are approximate and can change. It’s a good idea to check the official Garcia Program website or contact the program administrators for the most accurate and up-to-date information.

Financial Considerations

Understanding the financial aspects of the Garcia Research Scholar Program is crucial. There are several costs associated with participation:

  1. Registration Fee: Every applicant must pay a non-refundable $50 registration fee when applying.
  2. Laboratory Usage Fee: All participants are required to pay a laboratory usage fee. For the 2024 application period, the updated fee has not been announced, but as a reference, it was previously set at $3,700.
  3. Room and Board (For Non-Commuters): If you’re unable to commute and need to live on campus, additional costs apply. These include:
      • Room (Double Occupancy): $2,436
      • Mandatory Meal Plan: $600
      • Mandatory Student Health Services Fee: $61.50
      • The total for room and board comes to just over $3,000.

It’s important to note that as of the latest information, there is no mention of financial aid or scholarships available through the program. Prospective participants should plan accordingly and consider seeking external scholarships or funding sources.

Housing and Living

For those who can’t commute daily, the program offers on-campus housing. Participants will generally be housed in dormitories with double occupancy, fostering a communal and collaborative environment. The mandatory meal plan ensures that your nutritional needs are met, with various dining options available on campus.

Life on campus is more than just attending the program. You’ll have opportunities to explore the campus, engage in recreational activities, and make new friends. The experience of living on campus, even for a short period, is a valuable part of the program, offering a taste of college life and independence.

Final Thoughts

The Garcia Research Scholar Program offers a unique and enriching opportunity for high school students, undergraduate students, and teachers to delve into the world of scientific research. With a focus on polymer science and engineering, this program stands out for its hands-on lab experience, expert guidance, and comprehensive academic curriculum.

Diverse group of young people chatting in college library

The program is competitive, with a detailed application process and specific eligibility criteria. However, the rewards are immense, ranging from in-depth scientific knowledge to personal growth and professional development. Although the financial commitment is significant, the experience gained is invaluable, especially for those aspiring to a career in science.

If you’re a student or teacher with a passion for science and a thirst for knowledge, this program is a stepping stone to a brighter future. Don’t hesitate to start preparing your application, gathering the necessary materials, and planning for this exciting educational journey.

Remember, the world of science thrives on curiosity, determination, and the courage to explore the unknown. The Garcia Research Scholar Program is not just an academic venture; it’s an adventure into the heart of scientific discovery. Embrace this opportunity to learn, grow, and contribute to the scientific community.

AdmissionSight is here to help you along every step of your college application journey, from perfecting your admissions essays to tailoring your extracurricular activities to helping you score a spot in that amazing summer program that will really make your application stand out.

Allow AdmissionSight to help you showcase your best when submitting your college applications this fall. Reach out to us today to learn more about our services.

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