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LIU Post Biology Professor Mentors Second Intel Finalist

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High school senior Rachel Mashal made local news in recent weeks when she was named one of 40 finalists in the Intel Science Talent Search, making Bellmore’s John F. Kennedy High School one of a small handful of schools to produce Intel finalists in consecutive years.  She also became the second consecutive finalist from the lab of LIU Post biology professor Ted Brummel.Brookville, NY. (Mar. 1, 2016) - High school senior Rachel Mashal made local news in recent weeks when she was named one of 40 finalists in the Intel Science Talent Search, making Bellmore’s John F. Kennedy High School one of a small handful of schools to produce Intel finalists in consecutive years.

She also became the second consecutive finalist from the lab of LIU Post biology professor Ted Brummel.

A year before Mashal came to the LIU Post campus to conduct her research on the effects of diet on caffeine addiction in fruit flies, Kennedy student Samuel Epstein came to Brummel’s lab to conduct his own research using fruit flies, studying the effects of exposure to microbes on the flies’ food consumption.

While Mashal and Epstein worked on related projects in Brummel’s lab, neither he nor their research advisor at Kennedy, Barbi Frank, steered them in that direction.

“I have the students design their own projects,” Brummel said. “We talk about what their interests are – they usually present 5-6 different possible projects – and then we discuss feasibility in terms of resources and time available.”

For Brummel, bringing high school students into his lab to work on their research projects is an extension of his greatest passion in teaching: helping students discover theirs.

“Scientists learn about science by conducting research more than they do by taking classes,” Brummel said. “The earlier a student gets involved in his or her own research, the more likely they will choose science as a career, and the better they will do in a very challenging field.”

LIU’s commitment to student development is a perfect match for Brummel’s own student-centric approach.

“I function as both a teacher or mentor and as a scientist.” Brummel said, “This balance allows me to give students the freedom to develop their own projects and pursue their own ideas, rather than trying to recruit students to help me conduct my own research. I enjoy working with students who have complete ownership of their projects and have been very pleased with their ability to make discoveries following their own ideas.”

The ideas that Mashal and Epstein followed in Brummel’s lab are leading them towards publication alongside an LIU Post graduate student. Brummel is coordinating a collaboration between the two Intel finalists and Chao Zhang, who earned his M.S. in Biology from LIU Post in 2014, synthesizing the work they did with fruit flies into an article that they will submit to a peer-reviewed journal.

“All three of them worked on different projects,” Brummel said, “but there are areas of overlap. I use Skype to meet with Sam every week, and meet in person with Chao and Rachel.”

And as Brummel guides his high school and graduate school protégés toward publication, his LIU Post lab continues to welcome students in pursuit of discovery.

Posted 03/01/2016

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