Exposing students to science, changing lives

By Eleanor Pena-Humes
Bayside High School

and Amoy Brown
Hempstead High School

For Dr. Srinivas Pentyala, getting high school students interested in biomedical science is all about exposure.

In 2004, Pentyala created a program to provide students who did not have an immediate interest in the sciences exposure to such opportunities.

“The reason why I thought of having a program like this is to actually excite and inspire students who are not at all interested in biomedical science,” Pentyala said. “I look at the other side and all these kids who don’t have any idea what they want to do because they are not exposed to it.”

The program, the Science and Research Awareness Series, or SARAS, began at the Department of Anesthesiology at Stony Brook University, with Pentyala running morning lectures. The interest in the program expanded quickly and soared, he said.

“We get kids from all over the country,” Pentyala said. “Some from across all over the world.”

In addition to lectures taught by Stony Brook faculty and staff, the program provides hands-on laboratory experience for students. The students do not learn by book, but “on the fly,” as Pentyala calls it.

“It’s not like you pay some fee, we teach you this and I disappear,” Pentyala said. “That’s why I think it’s continued to grow.”

Starting at just 24 students at the dawn of the program, it now has an average of 135 students.

The CEO of Stony Brook University’s hospital and the dean of the Medical School are among the 80 instructors. “They want to inspire the kids,” Pentyala said.

The students observe first-hand the techniques used in biomedical science, witnessing interactive demonstrations and also attend workshops in CPR, statistics and ethics.

“They had a fake person set up and they went into cardiac arrest and were able to resuscitate using CPR which we learned the day before,” said participant Jorge Gomez, 17.

Staff of SARAS said the program is a huge benefit to participants. “The program is great for young students,” said Stony Brook junior Sunjit Parmar. “They’re kind of like a sponge. They are just going to absorb knowledge but they’re kind of like clay, you can mold them into anything.”

One intern described the benefits to organizers. “I’m also here to learn as well,” Pumar said. “It’s a lot of different topics and subtopics. Very interesting stuff.”

Pentyala’s daughter, Sahana, said attending the program while in high school helped shape her career plans.

“I want to be a psychologist now,” she said. “I think I want to help people of that age to understand what they want to do in life.”

There are optional donations, but the program itself is free, including donated lunches and a tight-knit staff alongside Dr. Pentyala.

“It’s a lot of cool things,” Parmar said.

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