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Doctoral student looks to understand love

For Justin Garcia, love is in the air everywhere he looks around.

Love is in the air, professionally speaking: Garcia’s research on the subject has earned the doctoral student numerous accolades during his six years at Binghamton University.

“My career goal is trying to understand the evolutionary and neural foundations of love and intimacy,” said Garcia, a 24-year-old from Queens who is pursuing his doctorate in biological sciences. “What is love? It’s a tough question. You can answer it as a neuroscientist, psychologist, biologist.”

At Binghamton, Garcia earned his BA in neuroscience and behavioral development and his master’s in biomedical anthropology. He has a dozen publications and was one of four SUNY students to receive a SUNY Doctoral Diversity Fellowship last spring.

He also had the opportunity to branch into teaching over the summer. His human development course, Bioculture of Love and Sex, sought to “teach the science of love and sex and see how it’s really an integration of biological and cultural factors,” he said.

The class was heavily influenced by the work of the nationally known biological anthropologist Helen Fisher. Garcia has worked with Fisher and helped bring her to campus for a lecture last spring.

Garcia is grateful that he has been able to work at Binghamton with research leaders such as David Sloan Wilson, J. Koji Lum and Anne Clark.

“I stand on the shoulders of giants,” said Garcia, who hopes to combine research and teaching at a university after he receives his doctorate. “It’s a great support team of advisers. I appreciate the opportunities I’ve had to work with some of the people who are on top of the  world.”

Lum, an associate professor of anthropology, praised Garcia’s energy toward research and other campus work.

“He brings out the most cooperative aspects in other people,” Lum said. “He’s brought in a lot of collaborators just by going out and meeting people at other universities and networking with them.”

Garcia also has made a direct impact on his fellow students. He spent two years as a resident assistant at College-in-the-Woods, assists at the Counseling Center and helped start BU Gets Tested, in which free HIV testing is offered in conjunction with the Southern Tier AIDS Program. More than 700 students have been tested during the past three springs, said Garcia, who is certified to do HIV testing.

“It’s something that’s deep and personal to me,” he said of BU Gets Tested. “I like taking the research we are doing in the lab and putting it out in the real world, doing outreach and making our work affect the daily lives of our friends, peers and the rest of society. What greater pleasure could you have?”

To view a video about Garcia's summer 2009 course, Bioculture of Love and Sex, go to


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Last Updated: 10/14/08