While serving as a research assistant to biology Professor Karim Sharif, Jason Macias won third place among undergraduate and graduate students from New York and New Jersey at the 2012 CUNY Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate Conference, and Professor Sharif has won three research grant awards as a result of their collaboration. “The research activity has a great potential to impact student learning,” says Professor Sharif. “It brings directionality, focus, and inspiration, resulting in great academic success. Jason has been trained in the processes necessary to do research and has been performing excellently in his academic pursuits. It has also benefited me in enhancing my scholarship of teaching and learning. The students have been instrumental in moving my research program forward.”A former elevator repair man, Jason was transformed by his experience at LaGuardia, and admires his biology professor, who he says “is a mentor and a testament to success as someone who is in the field, studying the same questions I had, and was actually finding answers to them.”“Our research focused on gene annotation, which is taking a gene from an organism that is known and looking for gene structures in less-known organisms. We are trying to understand the evolutionary changes among species that are closely related to the fruit fly,” Jason explains. Another project involves regulation of gene expression in the brain of a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease.As a peer mentor, Jason trained and guided incoming student researchers of the Bridges program at LaGuardia, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health.Jason graduated from LaGuardia in spring 2012 with a degree in Liberal Arts: Math and Science, and is now studying biology at Hunter College. His relationship with Professor Sharif is still strong; he returns to the College to continue their research. Once he completes his education, Jason hopes to teach, research infectious diseases and practice medicine simultaneously. “I really don’t care how much money I make, I just want to be happy and feel like I have purpose,” he adds.