Student Summer Profile: Maho Koga


Kirti Nath, Staff Writer

Maho Koga is a senior in the InSTAR research program at Ward Melville. She spent this summer in the Garcia Program, an intensive seven-week research program that focuses in polymer engineering.


Kscope: What are you doing this summer?

Koga: This summer, I am conducting research at Stony Brook University. I am working in the old engineering and heavy engineering building in material science. My project is biology-related, but focuses mostly on polymer engineering.


Kscope: How did you find your lab?

Koga: I am actually part of the Garcia program, which I found out about through previous student presentations and the internet.


Kscope: Can you explain your project in a few sentences?

Koga: My project focuses on using hydrogels to measure traction forces and cell migration. Basically we’re using gelatin to make a gel that we can plate cells on, and we are observing how they move on the gels using fluorescent bead particles.


Kscope: What are you planning on doing with your research?

Koga: I plan on submitting my research to the Intel STS competition, and hopefully continuing it throughout the school year.


Kscope: What are your hours?

Koga: The program officially runs from 10-4, but most students, including myself, stay much later. Generally, I go home around 5:30-6, depending on how much we do that day. If we are getting results, we may go a little later.


Kscope: How hard was it for you to adjust to the lab work environment since the people there are older/more experienced?

Koga: At first I was somewhat nervous and a little shy, because I didn’t want to interfere with other people’s experiments or be too much of a nuisance. However, I learned that if you don’t ask questions, then nobody will answer them for you. It turns out that the faculty and students here are very open to questions, and are more than willing to help out if you are confused. I was able to adjust to the lab very well, and am very excited to be conducting research here at SBU.


Kscope: Where did you go when you needed help?

Koga: Whenever I had questions, I always went to my graduate student, since he is very experienced in the field.


Kscope: What prep did you have to do before going into the lab?

Koga: Before going into the lab, I read papers about the field I am working in, and the technique I was using, so I was familiar with the terms and the procedure. We also had to take a safety test about general safety and the machines we used.


Kscope: Any advice for students who want to start to do research?

Koga: For anyone who wants to get involved in research, I think that having a university so close to our high school is a great opportunity for some summer research! Definitely start seeking out mentors early on, but make sure you choose a topic that you are interested in. With that said, don’t be too narrow-minded, and be open to new ideas and subjects. You never know, you may think you want to do a project in biology, and end up in computer science and absolutely loving it!