“I want to build something that can explode, so how can I do that?”
New Paltz High School senior Luke Gerber leans back in his chair, smiling as he remembers his middle-school antics (which included attempts to make thermite and burning a hole through a plank of cherry wood). Though Gerber has often had a love-hate relationship with his formal high-school education, no one who has met him can deny his passion for learning.
“It’s fun to be able to demonstrate what you know in that environment,” Gerber jokes, adding on a more appreciative note that while “high school overall [he] wasn’t impressed with … there were a lot of subjects [he] wouldn’t have touched otherwise.” He says that conversations with a close friend have led him to question whether he rarely studies, or is always studying simply by researching the directions that interest him most.
Recently, Gerber’s explorations have led him to discover, or rediscover, caving. “I went to the yard sale of a geologist a couple years ago,” he says, an experience which led him to examine “a communist newspaper from the Seventies with great cave maps.” Since then, Gerber has discovered a variety of local spots: favorites include Pompeii’s Cave, the Rosendale cement mines and Salamander Cave.
Academically, however, Gerber’s interests are wide open. He is considering pre-med, liberal arts and bioengineering for college.
“That field I know is going to explode in the next ten years,” he says of the latter. “Some of the possibilities with CRISPR [clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats] technology … it’s scary how awesome they are.” CRISPR entails creating a genome template for a variety of functions in the body, primarily for the purpose of gene editing. Gerber’s science studies at the high school, as well as hospital internship opportunities in Albany, have only increased his interest in the subject. While he says Don Bucher’s classes gave him his caffeine addiction, he’s grateful for all the information he absorbed.
The prospect of contributing to further scientific research, particularly on the corporate level where resources are greater, excites Gerber. He admits that his plans are still malleable.
“If I go to a liberal arts college, I’ll probably learn more about the world and [it will] change everything.”
While he is an undeniably voracious learner, school has not always come easily to Gerber. He suffers from dysgraphia, a condition similar to dyslexia in that it makes it more complicated for him to write and organize letters on a page, sometimes presenting as a difficulty with spelling or in messy handwriting. While it has provided “a weird hurdle,” he has found ways to work around it. Most of Gerber’s reading is done by listening to audio books, which he believes has contributed to speech as his expression of choice.
“With my handwriting, I have to become a doctor,” he quips.
In the future Gerber plans to devour more information and enjoy his last year of high school activities. Among them are Mock Trial and the ski team (this year, he hopes to place in the upper half at States).
“You have to remember how quickly high school ends, and be motivated to make the most of it,” Gerber advises. As for the things he would like to retain in adulthood, Gerber says, “I yield to [my] future self. He’s like me, but better.”