Lucinda Zawadzki holding a Great Black-backed Gull chick on Tuckernuck Island, MA.

When meeting Lucinda Zawadzki ‘15 for the first time, one may assume that the young College of Staten Island (CSI) graduate has her head in the clouds, and, in fact, that’s exactly where it is. The Macaulay Honors College (MHC) alumna, who graduated as Salutatorian with a Bachelor of Science in Biology with Honors, divides her time between research, publishing manuscripts, interning, and feverishly completing graduate school applications. The Staten Island Technical High School graduate plans to pursue a PhD in Ecology beginning in fall 2017.

Zawadzki, who also holds a double minor in Biochemistry and Chemistry, is a recent recipient of the impressive National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program Honorable Mention Award. She is also a University Scholar and received a full-tuition Merit Scholarship through the Macaulay Honors College, which covered tuition for her entire four years CSI. In addition, while at CSI, she was awarded a CSI Foundation Scholarship (2014), a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship Honorable Mention (2014), a CSI Honors Undergraduate Research Stipend (2014 and 2015), and the New York Community Trust Grant (2015).

“Being at CSI has allowed me to flourish, and I do not think I would be the person I am today had I attended a different college. I owe this College a lot, and I am proud to say that I graduated from such an amazing place,” exclaimed Zawadzki.

The Great Kills resident also commended the support of the MHC staff as well as several notable CSI professors such as Dr. William Wallace, Dr. Shaibal Mitra, Dr. Richard Veit, and Professor Tom Brown, all of whom had “a very strong impact” on her future.  She noted that MHC Director Dr. Charles Liu, Associate Director and Advisor Lisa French, and Program Coordinator Anita Romano have “provided continued support, encouragement, and advice” during her college career, as well as during the transitional period between college and graduate school.

Adding even more breadth to the young researcher’s undergraduate experience at CSI, Zawadzki studied abroad three times: London, England through a Hunter College program in the summer of 2013, studying contemporary British drama; Rousay, Scotland in the summer of 2014, participating in the Orkney: Gateway to the Atlantic Program; and finally St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands in January 2015, taking a course in tropical ecology.

The scholar and world traveler has only one bit of advice: “In order to succeed in college, try new things.” she urges. “While many of us think we have our careers planned out before we set foot in college, the reality of it is that college is a life-changing experience. You will be exposed to new ideas, new opinions, and new people, all of which will force you to view the world in an entirely new light. You will find new things that you love, and those passions may lead you to a career that you had never envisioned for yourself before.”

Zawadzki plans to continue her focus on aspects of avian migration, in particular the study of “vagrants”–birds that are known to fly out their “normal” range–and uncover reasons as to why they engage in this exploratory behavior. Upon receiving her PhD, she would like to continue to study avian migration, become a college professor, and “serve as a role model for women who do not believe they can make it in a science career.”

Lucinda Zawadzki holding a Northern Saw-Whet Owl that she banded in Sandy Hook, NJ.

Since graduation, the budding ecologist continues to spend her time researching bird habits. This summer, she traveled to Tuckernuck Island, MA with Dr. Veit to study herring gull and great black-backed gull diets. Alongside Central Connecticut State University Master’s Degree candidate Allison Black, she helped band gull chicks and assess diet samples to understand what parents were feeding their chicks. She also assists Professor Brown at his bird-banding sites in Sandy Hook, NJ during both fall and spring migration.

In her leisure, Zawadzki frequents the parks of Staten Island to watch birds and learn more about the species present in the area, as well as their behaviors. “I’ve noticed that being outside is also the best way for me to gain research ideas. What better way to ask questions about the world around us than being in it and observing it for yourself?” she pondered.

Being in nature a great deal also inspired the outdoorswoman to invest time in a new-found passion: painting. After taking an introductory painting class at CSI, Zawadzki says that she realized she was quite a capable artist.

“So, take that art class that doesn’t fit in with your major, or that biology class that you think sounds like fun, or even go on that study abroad trip where you don’t know any of the other students. You may discover something you had never thought of before, and it could change your life,” she said.