Bystroff (center) with her sister and father at Brown University

Veronica Bystroff graduated from Troy High School last year, and completed Questar III’s New Visions: Scientific Research and World Health program, based at the UAlbany Health Sciences Campus in Rensselaer. We asked her to reflect back on her time in New Visions and give us an update on what she’s doing now in her Freshman year at Brown University.

What are you doing now?

I’m in my freshman year of college at Brown University, where I am planning to concentrate in Literary Arts. I am also exploring Behavioral Neuroscience and I am currently considering a double concentration.

What led you to apply for the New Visions: Scientific Research & World Health Program?

I had never particularly enjoyed high school. It wasn’t really challenging and, to me, it felt kind of inefficient. I felt very ready for something different. I knew I wanted to be in one of the New Visions programs, and I considered the arts one since I had exhausted the visual arts resources at my high school—but I also had an interest in science (specifically in how it relates to behavior) that I never really got to explore in depth. I figured this program could help me figure out what I wanted from my future, and in the meantime I would also learn a lot of very cool stuff that I could use both to make sense of the world and to explore humanity in my writing.

What is one of your fondest memories of your time in the class?

I was one of the only kids in my class who couldn’t drive themselves to New Visions and there was no shuttle to Troy, so sometimes I had to stay behind in the classroom long after class ended. But I kind of enjoyed these moments because I liked our little classroom environment. I also really enjoyed the conversations I had with Professor Ruth in these times. We talked about the state of the world, and my battling interests in the humanities and science; we discussed college and research. She shared advice, and always showed a careful logic in the things she said. She was a very comforting presence. Whenever I recommend New Visions SRWH to high school students, it is because I know Ruth is an invaluable part of this program and that she will help them get through the year.

How has the New Visions program helped you be successful after high school?

I was kind of surprised when my first semester of college was less overwhelming than New Visions SRWH. I think New Visions was so hard because it was college-level material stuffed into a crowded high school schedule, whereas in college, students have much more control over how they manage their time. That, and the intro-level college schoolwork was generally more straightforward compared to the complicated tangle of conflicting opinions that is research papers.

If I was able to get through the New Visions coursework, I knew I’d be able to pass my classes in college. I also found I was much more inclined to request help from professors, because throughout my time at New Visions, we’d been taught to reach out to them for our research projects, for internships, etc. I was more comfortable with public speaking than some of my peers, and I even found that the coursework in the first section of my Neuroscience 0100 class was mostly review for me!

What would you tell high school students considering applying for the program?

Current students will tell you it is hard, but that probably doesn’t cover it. New Visions was the most challenging school year I ever experienced. But it’s worth it. It teaches you a lot of valuable skills, both for use in and outside the lab. And you get to be independent. You get some control over what you want to explore in science. You get to experience the life of an epidemiologist, and then a researcher. And you get exposure to tons of people who are already in various fields.

If you decide to apply, remember New Visions is a very difficult program but it is definitely worth the effort.

We also spoke with Veronica last year about her experience in Baltimore at the national Brain Bee competition, as well as her post-high school plans: