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Biotechnology Major Lands Internship at Brookhaven Lab

Beverly Jose Agtuca earns position through Department of Energy

Beverly Jose Agtuca

At the end of her first year in college, Beverly Jose Agtuca's budding science career has already gone full circle.

Agtuca, a biotechnology major in ESF's Department of Environmental and Forest Biology (EFB), is spending the summer as an intern at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island through the U.S. Department of Energy's Summer Undergraduate Science Internship program.

She has been there before.

When she was a student in the Sachem East High School Class of 2010, the Holbrook, Long Island, native participated in a program that matches teacher-student teams from nearby high schools with Brookhaven scientists. One of Agtuca's teachers partnered with a Brookhaven associate biochemist, Dr. Lee Newman, and Agtuca joined the team as the student participant. The high school pair began working in Newman's lab, where the focus of study was the impact of bacteria-plant symbioses, and Agtuca stayed on even after her science teacher departed.

When Newman left Brookhaven in mid-2010 to accept a job teaching at ESF, Agtuca tailored her college plans to match and arrived on campus at the same time. Newman is now an assistant professor in EFB and continues to mentor Agtuca.

This summer, Agtuca is working with a chemist, Dr. Richard Ferrieri, who is a researcher in Brookhaven's medical department. Ferrieri is widely known for his work in applying radiotracer techniques, originally developed for the study of the human brain, to the study of plants.

Agtuca will spend 10 weeks learning the techniques she will use in the lab. Next summer, she will return to Brookhaven and put those skills to work on a project of her own, using short-lived radioisotopes to monitor metabolic changes in organisms.

Agtuca said plants have held a fascination for her since she was a youngster tending a vegetable garden.

"Plants are really interesting," she said, adding with a smile, "It's easy to do research with plants. They don't move."

She has a matter-of-fact explanation for the unique opportunity she has to work alongside a Brookhaven National Laboratory scientist after completing her freshman year of college.

"I feel like I worked hard for it," she said. "And I feel like if you work hard for something, you'll get it."