Senior Dissertation Practice

Terraces residents listen to a dissertation.

Education never ends at The Terraces at Los Altos, thanks to a unique partnership with graduate students from nearby Stanford University.

In its fourth year, Graduate Researchers, Active Minds, and Science (GRAMS) enables graduate students of all disciplines to bring their research to the senior living community and present their topics of study to residents.

“Students use this as an opportunity to practice their communication skills,” said Niki Goularte, a fifth-year doctoral student in structural biology at Stanford and founder of the program. “When we debrief students, they often share how helpful it was to get a variety of questions, some like you’d get at home around the dinner table from family and those you’d get defending your dissertation.”

Once a month, Goularte introduces two or three presenters to the community. While topics center mostly on research at the School of Medicine, GRAMS has also hosted presentations by students in law, education and psychology.

“The program really empowers people to learn more,” said Goularte, who added that it’s funded in part by Stanford Biophysics Outreach and the Stanford Bioscience Student Association. “We have some residents who are regulars and are told how great the presentations are to stretch their minds and push them to ask questions on topics they may know nothing about.”

Debbie Gonzales, Terraces’ executive director and a family friend of Goularte’s, said the program has been warmly received.

“We’re so grateful for the opportunity to partner with a world-class institution and participate in a program that’s mutually beneficial for the students and residents,” Gonzales said.

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