Honors College &
Engineering Scholars for Medicine Programs
Major: Biomedical Engineering
Class of 2015
Dr. Clinton Rubin &
Dr. Ete Chan,
"Sometimes in science class you are given the impression that everything has been discovered already. But once you start doing research, you see there are a bunch of things you can look into, and so much more that has yet to be discovered..."
"When you’re in the lab, you read so many papers that you can start to think in jargon. The Center for Communicating Science workshop gets you to break down your habits and speak in normal-person-talk."
Interview: read more >>
Researcher of the Month
Ariel Yang has just returned from attending the national BMES Conference in Seattle, Washington, where she presented a poster and was honored with the 2013 Undergraduate Student Design and Research award. This is quite a significant achievement — particularly for a self-described “newbie” to research, who has been a member of Dr. Clinton Rubin’s Musculoskeletal Research laboratory for less than a year now. For Ariel, the experience of being at a national meeting was very positive: “BMES was wonderful! What impressed me was the range and differing scales of projects ...It was staggering to realize that there are so many possibilities and arenas for innovation, improvement, and invention in almost every field imaginable; being with such motivated and inspired people made me eager to get back to my own research with a more open mind!”
Ariel is a sophomore member of the Honors College, a participant in the highly selective 8-year B.E./MD Engineering Scholars for Medicine program, and majors in Biomedical Engineering—a field that Ariel is very enthusiastic about and hopes to draw on in her future career in medicine. Ariel joined the Rubin laboratory in December of her freshman year (2012), and soon began investigating the effect of low intensity vibration on obesity, a project she presented at the campus-wide URECA poster symposium last April. This past spring, Ariel was one of 10 SB students selected for a pilot summer program administered by URECA- The Career Center-and the Department of Technology & Society, entitled “Explorations in STEM”—a SUNY-RF funded program supporting novice student researchers in STEM fields. This program included weekly enrichment seminars on topics ranging from STEM Careers and professional development, to ethics, to scientific presentation (including a workshop with the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science); and culminated in a poster symposium where Ariel presented her work on: “Adolescent obesity in mice leads to transiently compromised bone structure and morphology.” Last year, Ariel was one of a handful of BME students selected for a Goddard Family Charitable Foundation Scholarship; recently she was also awarded a URECA travel grant to support her travel to the BMES meeting in Seattle.
Ariel’s secret to success, and her advice to all students, is to "be really interested in what you’re doing." And her very positive outlook is evident in everything in which she is involved with at SB. When she talks about her Honors College affiliation, Ariel speaks in superlatives: “Honors College is the best place ever. The people are super awesome. They are so ready to teach you anything you would want to learn (e.g. long boarding, ukulele, Python…) Everyone is so willing to share what they know and what makes them special. It’s a really great community.”
Born in Taiwan, Ariel spent most of her childhood in the Stony Brook environs, and was a graduate of Ward Melville High School where she was active as Editor-in-Chief of the school newspaper and earned top honors, including being named co-salutatorian (class of 2012), and receiving the Summa Cum Laude Scholar of the National Latin Exam award. In summer 2012, prior to coming to SB, Ariel volunteered in the laboratory of Dr. Emmanuel Chang in the Department of Chemistry at York College (CUNY) and gained experience in mass spectrometry with matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization (MALDI). Ariel's hobbies include: knitting, ukulele, piano, and clarinet. Below are excerpts of her interview with Karen Kernan, URECA Director.
Karen: Tell me a little about your research.
Ariel. I’m in Dr. Rubin’s musculoskeletal laboratory. Our current study attempts to investigate the impact of a high fat diet during adolescence, a critical stage in bone development. Clinical trials in humans have shown that obese adolescents and children are more likely to suffer bone fractures; our study isolates and investigates the result of a high fat diet on bone in mice. Since mesenchymal stem cells, which can differentiate into cartilage, bone, fat, or muscle, may be more likely to become fat when exposed to a high fat diet, we hypothesize that a greater development of fat in adolescence will simultaneously lead to a dearth of bone formation.
Tell me how you first got started in the Rubin laboratory.
In high school, research seemed super intimidating …but when I started college, I figured that I'd give it a try. So I looked at the BME website, and the first thing I read was Dr. Rubin’s lab description. I had remembered reading an article in National Geographic magazine years ago featuring Dr. Rubin's research, and I really was interested in the work. Before I started at SB, I emailed Professor Rubin, and he said yes! I started working here in December of 2012. I also gained some experience in the summer before starting at SB by volunteering in a Chemistry lab at York College.
Do you like doing research?
Yes! It’s one of the best experiences I’ve had in SB!
Have you had an opportunity to present your research?
I presented at the URECA Celebration in April and it was a great experience! It was the first time I presented. It was good to learn from people who were old hands at this - they give you tips on presentation and how to make a good poster. And I presented at the end of the summer program. And at the end of September, I presented a follow-up poster at BMES in Seattle. Each time, it's a huge learning experience!
Describe the lab atmosphere.
The environment is perfect for someone like me, who is a newbie at science stuff. I got really lucky with the Rubin lab, because all the people are incredible and everyone is so helpful. I entered the lab with nearly no experience, and I didn’t know how to write in a scientific manner. But they encouraged me to do more than I thought I could do. My mentor, Dr. Ete Chan, encouraged me to apply for BMES (which I didn't think I'd be able to get), and encouraged me to apply for the international award for research and design. I thought, "That’s definitely not going to happen; I don’t know how to science!" … But what do you know? I’m here, and I got the award. It was all because they helped me out so much, bringing me from step zero to where I am.
Dr. Rubin is a great faculty PI, and he's really funny. And Dr. Ete Chan is the most incredible person ever. She taught me everything I know about how to do research, how to write scientifically, and how to think in a scientific manner. She leads you to be independent in your own scientific journey.
What did you gain from being a participant in the new pilot program Explorations in STEM?
I think it was really great that it had both the scientific aspect and the business & networking component. It taught us how to use social networking and media to cultivate your online presence. It really helped us in terms of knowing where to go: how to apply to grad school, med school, and prepare you for the future career you’re going to pursue. The Communicating Science workshop was one of the best events. I had the opportunity to participate in the abstract distilling exercise—where you stand up and try to explain your work quickly and colloquially to a group of people. It was a great learning experience.
A lot of people enter research without really thinking about how they’re going to communicate what they find to other people. It’s so important, because science is all about interdisciplinary communication and spreading ideas to people who aren’t exactly experts in your field. When you’re in the lab, you read so many scientific papers that you can start to think in jargon, but the Center for Communicating Science workshop gets you to break down your habits and speak in normal-person-talk.
What made you choose SB?
When I was growing up, I really didn’t think I would want to go to SB, because I live right across the street. But SB was just the obvious and best choice. In terms of financial need, SB met everything that I needed and more. SB also gave me tremendous opportunities through the Honors College, through the Scholars for Med program, and through the smaller-size bioengineering department, where I knew I would have the opportunity to do hands-on research.
What advice would you give to others about research?
Be genuinely interested in what you’re doing. I know people who seem to go into research to get their name on something, get published, and add something to their resume. It’s a shame, because research is so interesting. And they don’t give it a chance to become interesting, or they don’t appreciate the value of what they’re investigating. So whatever you do, make sure it’s worth your time. Be so interested in it that you spontaneously think about it in your spare time… Plus, it’s fun! If you find something that really grabs your attention, then going to lab won’t be a chore or something you dread-- it will be something you really want to do.
How does research supplement what you learn in classes?
Sometimes in science class you are given the impression that everything has been discovered already. But once you start doing research, you see there are a bunch of things you can look into, and so much more that has yet to be discovered, which is very exciting. Doing research makes it easier to see how those scientists who discovered amazing things were thinking, and what the process was to get there. You learn all about the scientific method in class, but you don’t really know it until you do it.