College of Staten Island (CSI) alumnus Keegan Fernandes ’15, ’16, ‘17 has won a Jonas Salk Scholarship.
Through the Scholarship, in fall 2017, Fernandes will attend the Jerry M. Wallace School of Osteopathic Medicine at Campbell University in North Carolina, where in addition to pursuing a Doctor of Osteopathy degree, he will also conduct research relating to epileptic seizures and type II diabetes.
“I am so humbled and want to express my deepest gratitude for being awarded the Jonas Salk Scholarship. This prestigious award will allow me to pursue my dreams and for that I cannot thank the Jonas Salk committee enough,” said Fernandes.
A veteran of the U.S. Army, Fernandes has received a Purple Heart Medal and Ribbons denoting Army Commendation, Army Service, NATO Service, and Global War on Terrorism.
“Having spent seven years in the military, retuning to civilian life was difficult. I was grateful to find a home with the Veteran Support office where Laura Scazzafavo helped me focus on reaching the dream of becoming a doctor,” remembers Fernandes, who graduated with both a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology in 2015 and went on to complete a Master of Science in Biotechnology at CSI in spring 2016. The graduate student is slated to receive a second Master of Science in Neuroscience and Developmental Disabilities in spring 2017.
While in the Army, Fernandes served as the lead medic for his platoon and found his inspiration to become a physician after saving the life of his friend (and fellow soldier) in Afghanistan, who was severely injured by an improvised explosive device.
At CSI, Fernandes instructed tenth grade high school students in neuroscience and mathematics through the CSTEP Program, received honors in his major and served as a Veteran Support Specialist and a member of the Armed Forces Club and the Pre-Medical Society at CSI.
As an undergraduate, Fernandes worked in a laboratory with Dan McCloskey, PhD, examining the paradoxical lack of brain Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor in the African Naked Mole-Rat. According to Dr. McCloskey, “He helped develop first neuronal cell culture studies on this species and his research revealed that this unusual mammal uses alternative strategies to grow new blood vessels in the brain, which allows them to handle low oxygen environments in their native habitat. This work informs us of new strategies for human vascular growth to counteract stroke and heart disease.”
“Academically, the professors that I have crossed paths with saw my truest potential even when I couldn’t see it in myself. Having the backing that was offered at CSI has played a huge role in receiving this award,” said the student, who in particular recalls the support of Bill L’Amoreaux, PhD; Abdeslem El Idrissi, PhD; and Dr. McCloskey.
“Without their belief in me I would not be finishing my degree. Their mentorship held me up when life was too much, and here is the proof that anything is possible,” he said.
Dr. McCloskey, who serves as the student’s research mentor and pre-med advisor, added that, “Keegan has propelled himself toward this award. I have been fortunate to work with truly great students here at CSI, including previous Salk Scholarship Awardees, but I have never met a student like Keegan. I have no doubt that he will go on and continue to do amazing things.”
“CSI is very proud of Keegan for his academic achievements as well as his brave service to our country. He is to be commended for his involvement in research throughout his academic program here. There is no doubt that the outstanding mentorship by Dr. McCloskey provided a major boost toward his securing this great recognition,” noted Gary Reichard, PhD, CSI Provost.
The hard-working student and soldier believes, “No matter how long or tough the road is, if you stay with it and you really want it, you will achieve it. This journey is not over. It is the stepping stone to the future I am now certain of, given every challenge I have conquered.”
History of Salk Scholarships recipients
Keegan Fernandes ’15, ’16, ‘17
Anton Mararenko ’15
Christina Vicidomini ’13