There are many opportunities that set an Island School Semester apart from a traditional school, but one of the most remarkable things is the real-world research students conduct alongside our team of research scientists through the Cape Eleuthera Institute. While many Island School alumni might not end up pursuing further science or research studies as careers, our Semester alumni still cite their research projects as one of the most invaluable aspects of their program. And for those that do end up pursuing careers in research, it is oftentimes their hands-on experience at The Island School that propels them to do so. 

Tia Peterson, S19 Semester Alumna, is one of those individuals pursuing further education in science and research. A current sophomore at Colorado College, Tia is studying molecular biology. During her Semester, she had the opportunity to be part of the mycoremediation research group, led by Assistant Director of Research and Innovation, Dorlan Curtis. This project focused on utilizing phoenix oyster mushrooms to better understand their ability to breakdown specific contaminants that were present on The Island School campus.

Tia (right) and her peers presenting mycology research during their Semester’s symposium.

Prior to attending The Island School Semester, Tia knew she was interested in science, but she hadn’t had the opportunity to conduct real research yet. “It was always just the pre-made labs and the pre-made questions, that you know the answers to and get checked if they’re right or wrong. The Island School was when I realized that I wanted to pursue a further education in science and research. Having the opportunity to study alongside real scientists in projects that effect the environment in which we were living was a really valuable experience for me. It not only increased my sense of place and self, but also taught me first hand how research could directly impact my environment.”

This hands-on experience has opened the door to more research opportunities as she conducts her undergraduate studies. Although she hasn’t conducted further research on fungi yet, last summer during a Research Experience for Undergrads (REU) she studied the microbial population of groundwater samples in California. This summer she will be working in a lab looking at the development of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s through fatty acid oxidation in drosophila, a species of fruit fly that is a model organism commonly used in science research. 

Tia conducting research on groundwater samples during her REU last summer.

Finally this fall, Tia will be studying abroad at KU Leuven in Belgium where she will be researching human fungal pathogens. “During the fall semester, I will specifically be looking at candida ablicans and candida glabrata, which are the two most common human fungal pathogens. I will be studying under a PhD student studying the biofilm formation of these fungal species. I was initially interested in this research because of my background studying fungi and additional research experience with microbiology.”

“It was a pleasure to reconnect with Tia when she visited her sister at Family Weekend and to learn about the exciting research she will be conducting in human fungal pathogens this summer abroad in Belgium. While the Research class is one of the most impactful experiences of being a Semester student, it is outstanding to hear from our alumni letting us know of the research, projects, careers and entrepreneurial pursuits that link back to their time at The Island School,” reflects Dorlan. “Furthermore, to learn of a former student who is advancing research in the field of mycology is a true privilege as a teacher and a researcher”

An Island School Semester or Summer Term is so much more than just 100 days on Eleuthera. Our students go on to apply what they learn in the lab and the surrounding environment to their lives back home. Whether through further research, starting their own companies, or creating a home composting system, our alumni continue to live out our vision of Leadership Effecting Change