Student Features

Turning Back Time
David Cruz and Argie Miller

David Cruz worked closely with Argie Miller during his NYCRI experience. Image Credit: David Cruz

When people think about NASA, they often think about the future -- the agency is probably best known for paving the way for the exploration of space and other worlds. But for David Cruz, his experience as a participant in the New York City Research Initiative was just the opposite. Instead of the future, Cruz learned about the distant past by studying wetlands to learn about the history of the environment.
In which NASA student opportunity project did you participate, and how did you get involved in it?

I participated in the NASA NYCRI (New York City Research Initiative) program, and I got involved by working with Argie Miller (a NYCRI high school teacher) and Dorothy Peteet (a civil servant at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies) during my sophomore year on Decadon Pond. There they introduced me to the program, though I was too young. I applied the following year when I was old enough and got accepted.

Explain the research you conducted through your NASA involvement and why this topic is important.

I worked in the field of paleoclimatology. During the program, I compared the organic and inorganic matter in freshwater wetlands and salt marsh wetlands. The data found revealed how human pollution and interference in the area affected the vegetation, as well as overall area, over time.

What has been the most important part of your research?

The most exciting part was working out in the field. For (what) I was working on, it was required for me to get core samples of the wetland, and these core samples would measure around two meters long. So we were looking 2,000 years into the past. It was like a "time machine" in a sense. So it was fun getting dirty and really taking in the scenery to obtain these core samples.

What is your educational background, and what are your future educational plans?

I went to P.S. 254 in elementary school. From there, I was accepted into the Vanguard Academy in Cunningham Junior High School, which had a more rigorous schedule than most. From there, I went to Secondary School for Law, which is where I met Mr. Miller. During my senior year I received a POSSE scholarship, which is a four-year full tuition scholarship to a top private liberal arts college in the country. So for college I'll be going to Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., where I will study either international business and management, archeology, or engineering.

What inspired you to choose the education/career field you did?

I want to be in a field that allows me to do the most I can for me to better understand the people of this planet, how it works, and what I can do to change it for the better. That is my passion, to help others, using not only science but other attributes such as leadership, dedication and focus, which the NYCRI program helped me receive.

What do you think will be the most important things you'll take away from your involvement with NASA?

It will definitely be the skills I have obtained from the program. All the lab work, the paper writing, the poster, as well as presentation, were done by me. We had mentors but they would only push me; the actual work was on my shoulders. And from that I learned responsibility, dedication, hard work, focus, leadership, as well as a better understanding that when things have to get done that I will be able to do it the best I can.

How do you think your NASA involvement will affect your future?

It taught me to be the best I can be. It helped me with work habits as well as speaking to either an audience or just one person, which are attributes needed in the workforce. So my involvement gave me a step ahead of my competition.

What are your future career plans?

To either be an engineer, archeologist or get my bachelor's in IB&M (international business and management), then go to law school and study environmental law. From there I might run for Congress or work with businesses to make them more environmentally friendly.

What advice would you have for other students who are interested in becoming involved with, or working for, NASA?

NEVER GIVE UP!! Always do the best you can. And when you tell people your dream of what you want to do and they say, "Oh, you can do that," then you aren't dreaming big enough.
NASA's student opportunity projects are designed to increase the number of scholastically well-suited, highly qualified, diverse students who are completing degrees in engineering, mathematics, science or related fields. The projects support NASA's goal of strengthening the agency's and the nation's future workforce.

Related Resources
NASA Education
New York City Research Initiative   →
Learning By Doing -- Profile of NYCRI Participant Adam Greenbaum
Knowledge Is Power -- Profile of NYCRI Participant Christian Mejia
The Real Thing

David Hitt/NASA Educational Technology Services