The students are working on their PhD's in the field of comparative biology at the Richard Gilder Graduate School at the American Museum of Natural History.
Ms. Florio is studying the various species of chameleons, while Sebastin Kvist researches how the chemistry of leeches might someday lead to a new drug that could help prevent blood clots in humans.
"It's really opportunity, and it's an opportunity to show that a PhD program at a natural history museum is a really good thing to create," Kvist said.
The American Museum of Natural History already has a worldwide reputation, and now it has become the first museum in the western hemisphere to be accredited to offer a PhD degree.
The students are on full scholarships, which include living expenses and funding for their research.
PhD candidate Bryan Falk said, "The museum has a great reputation within the field...and so the general reception, what I've heard from people, is excitement within the field of the museum finally granting its own degrees."
Shaena Montanari is one of two candidates who first came to the museum as local school children. "Part of the reason that I love science and love the natural world," she said, "is that I've come here so many times when I was a kid, and when this opportunity arose and I found out about it and it was the first year of this program, I was so excited. I had to apply."
The students are expected to gain their PhD's in four to five years, with a few new students added to the program each year.
For more on the PhD program, go to http://rggs.amnh.org/pages/amnh_phd_program.
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