Diya Rai-Gersappe is always striving to better herself in some way. The incoming Huntington High School senior is a bright, energetic, creative and exceptionally hardworking young woman. She impressed everyone during an intensive seven week summer research program at Stony Brook University’s Garcia Center for Polymers at Engineered Interfaces.
The teenager was accepted into the program following a rigorous application process that required her to meet extremely high standards.
Huntington High School senior Diya Rai-Gersappe.
“Since I participated in the program last year, I was able to meet with the head of the program and other professors and learn ahead of time what projects would be available for me to participate in,” Ms. Rai-Gersappe said. “The first two weeks of the program consisted of lectures given by professors, graduate students and guest speakers. These lectures allowed people to decide in which field and project they wanted to participate in.”
Looking ahead toward college, the Huntington senior is interested in Northwestern University, which she plans to apply to as an early decision candidate as well as New York University and Cornell University. “I want to pursue a career in medicine,” Ms. Rai-Gersappe said.
The teenager’s time on the Stony Brook campus was well spent as she went about her research at the Garcia Center.
“I worked in a group of five to try and create a hydrogel to treat brain aneurysms,” Ms. Rai-Gersappe said. “The current method to treat brain aneurysms involves placing a coil inside the aneurysm, which induces thrombosis, a biological response that results in the forming of blood clots around the coil, which helps seal off the aneurysm. However, this procedure isn’t always successful and can lead to infection. So we wanted to create a safer alternative. The premise of this project was to create a hydrogel that is able to be injected via a catheter into a brain aneurysm. This would end up filling the aneurysm and preventing it from growing, if successful.”
The Huntington senior explained that a “brain aneurysm is a bulge in a blood vessel in the brain.” Her team worked hard to arrive at a novel approach to treatment.
“Since hydrogels are networks of polymer chains that are biocompatible and highly absorbent, they can be injected directly into aneurysms to occlude the vessel,” Ms. Rai-Gersappe said. “Throughout the course of the program, my group tried many different polymer mixtures in order to make the hydrogel stay in the brain aneurysm for as long as possible. Our best result lasted for a little over an hour. The work we did over the summer is still being continued and I am working alongside one of my groupmates to improve upon what we have done so far.”
Stony Brook research scientist Dr. Chandramouli Sadasivan provided Ms. Rai-Gersappe and her research group members with professional advice as did Garcia Center Director Miriam Rafailovich and graduate student Juyi Lui.
“The ultimate goal is for this to become a permanent solution,” said Ms. Rai-Gersappe about the research her group conducted. “If this works, it would be a non-invasive and safer way to treat brain aneurysms and would be able to help people who have brain aneurysms that are in multiple stages.”
The summer program stretched from late June into August. “I really enjoyed my project and made great friends during the duration of the program,” Ms. Rai-Gersappe said. “Since I am close to Stony Brook, I will be able to go there during the school year to continue working on this project. I am so grateful that I was able to participate in this amazing program for the past two summers.”
Her final year at Huntington High School will be an especially busy one for Ms. Rai-Gersappe. Secretary of the Key Club, she plans to once again run on the Blue Devil cross country team, participate in the science research club and on the Science Olympiad team, perform with the chamber orchestra, pit orchestra and Gemini Symphony Orchestra.
A talented pianist, Ms. Rai-Gersappe will also be participating in the National Guild Association’s High School Music Diploma program. “This involves memorizing 10 different pieces, learning cadences, arpeggios, scales, sight reading and ear training,” she said. “This will take place in June, but I have been working on this program since last year.”
All-in-all, 2019/20 is shaping up to be an incredible year for Ms. Rai-Gersappe, whose drive and determination is simply unstoppable.