Gina Surita: 'Research has been my most meaningful and rewarding intellectual experience'

Gina Surita

Biological Sciences & Science & Technology Studies 

Alfred, NY

What is your main Cornell extracurricular activity -- why is it important to you?

Throughout my time at Cornell, research has been my main extracurricular activity. I conducted research in orthopedic biomechanics in Professor Marjolein van der Meulen's laboratory from the summer after my freshman year through my junior year. In addition, during my last two years at Cornell, I conducted research in history of science and medicine, working closely with my science & technology studies advisor, Suman Seth.

In my orthopedic biomechanics research, I studied the role of estrogen receptor alpha in the skeletal response to mechanical loading in the mouse model. During my junior year, I conducted a research project in the history of medicine that examined debates about ether and chloroform anesthesia during the American Civil War. During my senior year, I conducted research for my science & technology studies honors thesis entitled "On the Origin of Pathogenic Bacteria: Theories of Bacterial Transmutation, Clinical Practice, and Laboratory Practice in Turn-of-the-Century America, 1880-1905."

How did any of your beliefs or interests change during your time at Cornell?

During my first couple of years at Cornell, I studied science with the ultimate goal of becoming a physician. By taking courses in science & technology studies, I developed an interest in studying past science and medicine. Associated with this shift in my interests was the realization that modern medicine and science were not inevitable developments. I developed an appreciation for the historical complexities and contingencies associated with developments in modern science and medicine, and came to see how exciting studying the past, on its own terms, can be.

If you were to offer advice to an incoming first year student, what would you say?

I would advise incoming students to get involved in research early. Starting research early allows students to conduct longer-term projects, and it also provides students with sufficient time to switch research fields if their interests change (as mine did). Getting involved in research is also a great way to interact with Cornell faculty members, who can be excellent mentors to undergraduate students. Throughout my Cornell career, research has been my most meaningful and rewarding intellectual experience, and I would encourage all incoming students to explore the diverse research opportunities that Cornell has to offer.

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