Gulliver Prep senior Nina Rodriguez is the school’s Silver Knight nominee in the Science category. Rodriguez spent much of this past summer doing research at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in the geriatrics area.
“I worked with Dr. Ramiro Verdun,” she says. “Mostly what we did every day, was learn how to work in the lab isolating plasmids.”
Rodriguez says plasmids hold genes, but are not in the main genome.
“They are in the bacteria,” she says. “We would isolate the bacteria cells. We would isolate them and take pictures of them using this gel. To see if they would grab this protein, he would inject into them”
The project dealt with telomere shortening. Rodriguez says as we get older, your telomere gets shorter. The research could lead to ways to change the effects of aging.
She says while the applications are still vague, the research is showing a lot of promise.
At the very end of the seven weeks, Rodriguez participated in a symposium with all the other high school students.
“And we presented to parents and faculty from UM and our sponsors and mentors,” she says. “We had to make a poster and present a paper.”
She found the summer research project exciting since she wants to go to medical school. Because of her time there, she discovered she likes medical research, so she is keeping that in mind as a potential career.
Rodriguez was accepted to Princeton for early action, which is non-binding, but she thinks she will likely end up there for her college career.
Her interest in medicine was bolstered by her volunteer work at South Miami Hospital in her sophomore and junior high school years. She started out in the mother-baby units, assisting the nurses.
“It was my first time being in a hospital as an assistant,” she says. “I asked to be switched to a different unit. To the bariatric unit. It was more elderly people and I got to talk to them. Basically, it was all similar things, taking drinks and food to the patients, a lot of answering the phone and talking to patients.”
At Gulliver, she is on the board of the Health Information Project.
“We teach health information to freshmen during biology class throughout the year,” she says.
The upper level students who participate are trained in a new module that is taught a couple of times a month. The topics range from nutrition and obesity to reproductive health and relationships.
Rodriguez keeps in shape by running cross country and participating in track. She competes in the pole vault event and she has cleared seven-and-a-half feet. She has made it to the district championships. Previously, she was a gymnast for 12 years.
“I learned a lot from gymnastics and I apply it to my life,” she says. “It teaches you to be dedicated to what you do. It taught me to be committed.”
Rodriguez started with gymnastics when she was about three years old, but she stopped when she reached middle school. She then tried out for the cheerleading squad, but later changed her focus to running. When she started running in high school, the coach saw that she had a strong upper body and introduced Rodriguez to the track coach who opened her eyes to pole vaulting.
Rodriguez is involved in the Best Buddies club at school. She has a buddy that she works with at the Learning Center, located next to Gulliver’s Miller Drive campus. The club often hosts parties for the buddies during the holidays.
By Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld