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Mariah Geritano ’14: Combining Research and a Love of Campus Life

Senior Mariah Geritano, a double major in biology and psychology, first came to Stony Brook as a high school student, participating in a summer research program. She was so enthusiastic about her experience that after graduation from Plainview High School she returned to campus to be a mentor to other high school students, and she enrolled at Stony Brook so that she could continue her research. Besides her research, Mariah mentors two high school students and is involved in several student leadership roles on campus.

Mariah GeritanoStony Brook: How did you get started in research?

Mariah Geritano: I was always interested in science, and my high school had a really strong research program. I’ve been doing research at Stony Brook since ninth grade. I started off in the Biotechnology program [then part of the Center for Science and Mathematics Education], and then I moved to the Garcia program, where I did research in materials science with Dr. Miriam Rafaelovich.

I worked in her lab for several summers. Once I enrolled at Stony Brook I applied for and got an REU [Research Experience for Undergraduates], and I mentored high school students who were working in her lab, doing what I had done.

SB: What is your current research project about?

MG: Right now I’m working with Dr. Yury Yakubchyk from the Department of Infectious Diseases. We’re working in the chemical and molecular engineering lab, which is part of the Garcia program, on a nanotechnology infectious disease project. Our research aims to prevent a certain parasite from penetrating human cells, and if they do get in, we want to kill them without killing the human cell. We’re using these really small particles called nanoparticles, and we’re trying to target the parasite and keep the cells protected. It’s really cool.

SB: Does this research fit in with your goals? If so, how?

MG: Yes, definitely, it does. I recently got interested in public health, so I’m exploring internships in that field. After graduation, I want to pursue a PhD in epidemiology or infectious disease. I hope one day to own my own research lab and possibly work with the CDC (Centers for Disease Control).

The research I’m doing now is very relevant to public health, because the parasite we’re targeting is prevalent in Africa and poorer nations where they don’t have the money for expensive drugs. Nanoparticles are really cheap, and they work very well.

SB: What else do you like to do on campus?

MG: During the summer I work as an orientation leader. I’m also on the Executive Board for RHA [Residence Hall Association]. My official title is Stony Brook Communications Coordinator. I oversee the 30 Hall Councils and coordinate the fall and spring retreats [where we] train over 200 people how to run their Hall Council and put on programs.

RHA is part of the North East Affiliate of College and University Residence Halls, and every year we go to their conferences. It’s a huge honor to host one, but Long Island has never had a school host one before. Last year my co-chair and I put in a bid to host the regional conference, and we got it, so Stony Brook is hosting the conference in November.

I organized an event with my RHA committee called “Saturday of Service” that I hope will become annual. We invited service organizations from on and off campus to come and raise funds by doing activities such as painting T-shirts for a homeless shelter and decorating bookmarks for local libraries.

I love being involved at the school, so I try my best to do everything.

SB: Did you get involved in campus life from the beginning?

MG: Yes. When I got here I made a promise to myself that I’d go to at least one club meeting where I had no idea what it was about. That happened to be RHA, and it worked out really well.

SB: What do you like most about being at Stony Brook?

MG: The opportunities available to me. I’m a huge nerd, and I really love science, and obviously Stony Brook science is tops. I was always involved in different leadership things in high school, and I really like trying new things, so I also wanted a school that would allow me to try new things that I haven’t been able to experience before. I have a lot of opportunities to grow as a leader here.

By Toby Speed


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