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GCHS seniors share science research insights, tips for academic success


Groundbreaking research into detecting counterfeit drugs and insights into how students view STEM courses were presented by GCHS seniors Alicia Cristoforo and Lindsay Grippo on Monday, May 9 at the Garden City Library. The free community event was sponsored by the nonprofit Garden City Friends of STEM (GCFS), wrapping up a ‘Student to Student’ Talk series that took place this spring.

After the students were introduced by Dr. Steven Gordon, Science Research Coordinator for Garden City Public Schools, Cristoforo began by talking about her research at the University of Notre Dame as part of the school’s summer program. She started her presentation with a short video highlighting the use of ‘Paper Analytical Devices,’ a simple, low-cost paper test strip that can test if a pharmaceutical product is legitimate. The drug is tested by simply rubbing the pill or its contents across the wax-printed bars on the strip.  Each ‘lane’ can test for over 60 pharmaceuticals simply by immersing the card in water. The cost of each test strip runs about 45 cents and is currently being tested in Kenya.

Samples of the Paper Analytical Device were passed through the audience as Cristoforo explained why the testing is vital. “It’s not just a third-world problem,” she explained, “but an issue in the United States as well, due to the increase in online pharmacies.” She added that the elderly and the uninsured are particularly at risk due to the lower cost of the imitation versions.

Grippo then followed Cristoforo at the podium to discuss her questionnaire, copies of which were handed out to the audience. A six-question survey was filled out by 100 Garden City High School students in an effort to determine if there were any perceived bias among male and female students toward STEM courses. She said she made sure the students were chosen at random by giving out the survey in the school hallways, so as not to slant results towards any particular group of students. She was happy to report that she found that girls and boys at the school were equally aware of and interested in STEM courses.

At the end of their presentations, the students were asked how they found their way into the research sciences. “By taking initiative and reaching out [to my teachers],” said Cristoforo. “I tried to take the hardest level science class I could.”

Asked what could turn women away from studying science in high school, Grippo admitted, “Negative experiences with science teachers could be bad. Of course, that could happen with any teacher or subject.”

Cristoforo then shared her positive school experiences with the audience. “I really liked all my science teachers. I remember Mr. Slater was really tough at first, but he ended up being one of my favorite teachers.”

“I developed a love for AP biology thanks to my teacher, Mr. Esposito,” said Grippo.

Cristoforo also admitted to having dealt with negative attitudes outside the classroom. “One time I met a doctor at Winthrop. When I said I wanted to study neuroscience, he said I shouldn’t do that if I want to have a family. That really surprised me.”

Asked for advice for their younger female classmates interested in pursuing a future in the sciences, they didn’t hesitate to answer. “Follow your heart and your interests,” said Cristoforo, who has a 99.61 GPA and will attend Notre Dame in the fall to major in neuroscience and behavior. “I was always open to different classes. Take everything there is to offer. Explore extra opportunities and don’t be afraid to take hard classes, because it’s really rewarding when you see your hard work pay off.”

“At times I doubted myself, but I kept pushing myself,” she added.

Grippo, who earned a 97.06 GPA and will be attending Colby College in the fall, agreed. “It’s a special group as you move through it together. There may be a stigma around taking hard classes, but I felt that at Garden City High School, you’re rewarded for being an intelligent person.”

 “It’s also important to surround yourself with the right type of people,” Cristoforo said, noting their close friendship since elementary school. “We work to build each other up.”

The Garden City Friends of STEM plans to bring back the talk series next fall. Is there a topic you’d like to see covered? To submit feedback, send us an email. View Cristoforo's presentation here and Grippo's presentation here.


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