Science Student Prodigy

For most students, biology and chemistry seem pretty daunting. The subjects are associated with tons of work, hair-pulling formulas and equations, and then, of course, the countless number of tests. Yet, for junior Biology major Eric Strobel, science is something fun, an activity of interest rather than a required course to get through the core requirements.
Recently, Strobel completed the prestigious and competitive Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Summer Program, where he was able to experience science in an exciting and hands-on way.

Strobel asserts that science was always an interest of his. Among the vast array of subjects offered in his many years of schooling, science “stuck out” for him and became his focus in high school. “I like to have fun, which is why I like science,” Strobel said.

For him, science is all about problem solving – the fun part comes while thinking through the problem at hand and finding the solution. He defines science as being technical, intellectual, and a word rarely attributed to science- creative. But being creative and trying different methods to solve problems, according to Strobel, is what gives him a sense of accomplishment and the reason why most students’ least favorite subject is his favorite activity.

While most students were probably tanning on the beach and partying the summer away, Strobel worked in a laboratory at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), focusing on research and looking for the innate immune response for cells infected with the Dengue virus. In laymen’s terms, he was looking to see what happens when a cell comes in contact with the virus.

The Dengue virus, which is found in tropical areas such as the Caribbean and Asia, can cause two types of diseases-one which can be contracted multiple times, and one called the Dengue hemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal. The virus, like West Nile, is carried by mosquitoes. Throughout his time in the program, Strobel tested cells which he injected with the virus and then studied their response to the infection, while switching the variables with each different test.

The MIT Summer Program allowed Strobel to work with many famous and esteemed scientists. Strobel noted, “It gave students the opportunity to work in a lab, focus on research, develop as scientists and better understand the thinking process.” Thanks to his professor and mentor here at St. John’s, Dr. Bazinet, Strobel knew what to expect when entering the program, yet said it was very different from what one would anticipate.

“Most people think of scientists as being stuck-in-a-book kind of people, but most are very interesting. Just some are a little out there,” Strobel explained. Since everyone there was dedicated to what they were researching, he was able to create common bonds with other students he worked with.

Dedication is the key in science. Strobel added, “A lot of science is trouble-shooting; you have to make it work properly.” And while Strobel enjoys science to the fullest, he says that it’s not all fun and games.

When asked whether there was anything he dislikes about science, Strobel answered, “I really can’t say that there is. Sometimes I get frustrated, but it’s not really something I dislike. It’s more along the lines of something that inspires me to work harder and try new approaches…it’s just fuel to push harder and get it to work.” His main objective in this field is to work towards a Doctorate in Molecular Genetics and become a researcher as well as a professor.

Science, however, isn’t the only interesting thing about Eric Strobel, who is not only intelligent but also musically inclined. Strobel, a native of Lynbrook, NY, has been playing the drums since he was eight, getting his start where so many musicians do in his elementary-school band. Strobel is also heavily involved on campus through the Honors Program. “I try to be involved with any event that they hold, [such as] Open Houses and Accepted Student’s Day,” said Strobel.

Last Spring, Strobel was inducted into the Skull and Circle Honor Society, the largest St. John’s honor society. With such immense accomplishments, it comes as no surprise that Eric won the St. John’s Silver Key in biology as a sophomore-and technically, he was a junior by credits. This was an even larger accomplishment because of the short time he had spent at the school up to that point.

And as if he didn’t have enough on his plate, he is also involved in charity work. “For the past four years I’ve run a food drive called the Summer Food Harvest,” said Strobel. “Its goal is to make people in my community aware that the need for food donations continues throughout the summer months, when people tend not to be thinking about stuff like that.”

Strobel also urges that people educate themselves on medical science. “I think people need to pay more attention to infectious diseases,” he said. He believes that in terms of the entire world, infectious disease is the most serious health issue. “Here in the U.S., we don’t even have some of the more serious deadly diseases… yet.”

Strobel cautions students, the up-and-coming adults of the world, to make themselves more aware of the dangers around them.