Jay Garcia '16 Receives Fulbright U.S. Student Award
The biology major will spend next year in the Netherlands conducting research on the protein that causes Huntington's disease in C. elegans worms.
Biology major Jay Garcia '16 has learned a lot from worms. During his time at Haverford, for four years, across three different labs, he has studied genetic neurodegenerative diseases, such as ALS and Huntington's, using C. elegans nematode models. Though he graduates in May, he plans to keep learning from those worms now as a recipient of a Fulbright U.S. Student Award.
Thanks to the award, Garcia will move to Groningen, Holland, this summer to work in the lab of Ellen Nollen, who uses C. elegans to study Huntington's disease. For the next year, he will conduct research on the protein identified as the causative agent of the disorder.
"Many genetic neurodegenerative disorders—such as Huntington's and ALS—are, currently, a slow and agonizing death sentence with no cure in sight," says Garcia, who eventually hopes to go to medical school. "They slowly eat away at a simply unlucky person. The researchers I've gotten to work with are helping to change that. I've been very lucky to get mentorship and training and funding that will allow me to contribute to Dr. Nollen's efforts for about a year."
Garcia's Fulbright U.S. Student Award will fund round-trip transportation to the Netherlands; room, board, and incidentals; and health insurance. He is one of only 16 people chosen by the Fulbright Program for research grants in the Netherlands this year.
In addition to his work in Nollen's lab, Garcia—a Haverford rugby player and co-head of Street Outreach, a group that makes and delivers food to Philadelphia's homeless—plans to play baseball for a local sports club in Groningen. A huge Rembrandt fan, he is also looking forward to visiting many of Holland's famous museums, especially the Rembrandt House Museum in Amsterdam.
At Haverford, Garcia was part of the inaugural class of Chesick Scholars, a program that supports exceptional students from underrepresented or under-resourced backgrounds throughout their time at college, beginning with a pre-freshman-year summer program. Not only did the Chesick Scholars Program connect Garcia with the men who would become his mentors, Senior Lecturer in Mathematics Jeffrey Tecosky-Feldman and Associate Provost and Professor of Biology Robert Fairman, but it also gave him a foundation that served him throughout his time at the College.
"I came from a less-advantaged high school and was poorly prepared to tackle academic pursuits at the intensity demanded by Haverford," he says. "And the summer program went a long way towards preparing me both in an academic and in a cultural sense."
Garcia departs for the Netherlands in August.