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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

URI senior aims for career in cancer research

Media Contact: Todd McLeish, 401-874-7892

Central Falls resident almost skipped college, graduates May 23

KINGSTON, R.I. -- May 10, 2004 -- When he first arrived on the campus of the University of Rhode Island nearly four years ago, Dioscaris Garcia wasn't entirely certain what subject to major in. But he knew what he didn't want -- microbiology.

"That was the last thing I wanted to do. I knew I didn't want to work with something that I couldn’t see," said the 21-year-old Central Falls resident.

But he changed his mind. Garcia will graduate from URI on May 23 as one of the University's top microbiology students. He plans to attend graduate school in the fall with the goal of a career as a cancer researcher.

Garcia started his URI coursework studying animal science and biotechnology, which led him to take his first microbiology class.

"That's when I started to really enjoy the subject," he recalls. "There’s much more to it than just looking in a microscope. Then, once I got my first experience, my curiosity took over and I wanted to know what else was involved. And the deeper I dug, the more there was to learn. Now I can see how people spend their whole lives studying it."

Two internships further confirmed that, despite his initial reservations, microbiology was the right field for him. As a sophomore, Garcia interned at Hybrigene, LLC, a South Kingstown-based plant biotechnology company, where he conducted genetic research to help make grass more drought resistant. Last summer he studied metabolites in marine bacteria with URI Assistant Professor David Rowley in an effort to discover new sources of antibiotics.

Garcia’s interest in becoming a cancer researcher emerged partly because several family members have been faced with the disease, and partly because cancer was used as an example in many of his classes. "I want to pursue something that’s going to make an impact on people’s lives," he said.

Garcia almost never had the chance at such a career, because he came very close to missing out on going to college in the first place.

"I knew I had a shot at getting into college because I did well in high school, but my parents weren’t wealthy and so, in the back of my mind, I thought that I shouldn’t burden them with having to pay for college when we were barely getting along," Garcia explained. "So I didn’t even want to apply to college, but my high school counselor, Carol Silver, forced me to write my college applications and essays in her office anyway. She said, ‘Don’t worry about the money. We’ll figure out a way.’"

Shortly thereafter, Garcia learned that he was one of the first recipients of a full-tuition scholarship to URI through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Multicultural Scholars Program.

"I was completely overwhelmed," he said. "That scholarship was a life saver. It gave me the drive to be a good student because to keep the scholarship I needed to maintain a 3.0 GPA. And once I knew I could do 3.0, I tried to push it as high as I could. That scholarship was the driving force in my academic life."