How a High School Science Program Led Me to SED

How a High School Science Program Led Me to SED by Alex Bruno, SED 2015

“Authentic Science Research” read the yellow handout Ms. Wisniewski placed on my desk in her freshman year biology class. I was new to Darien High School and a three-year independent study was probably the last thing I was interested in. But the ocean and its inhabitants always fascinated me; memories drifting into my head of snorkeling through the vibrant reefs of St. Thomas to traveling to the San Juan Islands to go Orca whale watching. But even after this brief stint of nostalgia, I still wasn’t convinced.

Intrigued but still on the fence, I placed the handout on the dinner table that night. Although I was still unsure, a long talk with my parents would seal my fate. I signed up for the program that week. This would turn out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Thanks Mom and Dad.

Bruno art-01
Artwork by Andrew Barlow

If I never enrolled in Authentic Science Research, I would never have ended up at Boston University. Through this program, I began researching corals reefs and their symbiotic relationship with the algae zooxanthellae. Throughout my three years in ASR, I learned how to speak publicly about my research, make contacts in my field and most importantly craft a research proposal and carry it out in a laboratory. During the summer after my junior year of high school, I traveled to Buffalo Undersea Reef Research Laboratory at SUNY Buffalo to conduct an experiment with Dr. Mary Alice Coffroth. This would be my gateway to Boston University.

Going into this experience, I had never flown alone, worked in a laboratory or even spoken face to face with Dr. Coffroth. I felt as if I was in over my head. But after a successful week of running PCR reactions on algal symbionts collected off of a reef in Florida, I had really enjoyed my time at BURR lab and felt like I had developed a great relationship with my mentor. When she asked where I was interested in going to college, I responded with Boston University. She in turn introduced me to Dr. Douglas Zook, an associate professor in the School of Education.

Before coming to BU, I visited one of Dr. Zook’s classes on Symbiosis and talked about my project in ASR. Although I started my career at BU in the College of General Studies, a couple of friends brought me to the first SED Green meeting of the year, and who was sitting at the head of the table but Dr. Zook. If I never had enrolled in ASR, Dr. Zook would’ve been just another professor to me. But if it weren’t for him, my friends who brought me to that meeting and my experience in ASR, I probably would not be majoring in education or even be at BU in the first place. Although I’m a History Education major, I’ll never forget the coral reefs that got me here.