[video] Meet Evelyn Okeke – 2013 Co-Valedictorian

Evelyn Okeke has been conducting research as a Biology (BS) major with a double minor in Biochemistry and Chemistry at CSI in Dr. Abdeslem El Idrissi’s lab since the summer of 2010, where she worked on a project that led to two publications. She has maintained a 4.0 GPA since she started her undergraduate studies in The Verrazano School Honors Program in 2010.

She has recenlty presented her research at numerous conferences including the 18th International Taurine Meeting in Marrakesh, Morocco. During the summer of 2011, she worked as a research assistant in the Robinson lab at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and last summer, she completed an internship in the department of Protein Science at Merck & Co. Inc.,as well as study abroad on scholarship in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R28o_qFA-wA[/youtube]Evelyn was awarded the prestigious UNCF/Merck fellowship for the academic year 2012/2013 and she received an honorable mention from the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship in 2012.

In the fall 2013, she will be begin her doctoral studies at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. This summer, she will go to the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands to complete a research internship in the Department of Pediatrics with a focus on neuroscience.

Leith ter Meulen ’76

LEITH TER MEULEN, who received a BA magna cum laude in Economics with a second major in Women’s Studies from Richmond College in 1976, is the President and CEO of Landair, Inc., a company that she founded in 1992. She describes the company as providing “an array of project development and management consulting services. We help clients make strategic decisions about their real estate needs, their business aspirations, and their capacity to undergo change. Then we help them implement their decisions with a suite of management tools and expert advice. Our core customer base has historically revolved around clients who provide public or community services like non-profits and government agencies; however we are now expanding more deeply into the private sector.”

Landair has consulted on a number of high-profile projects, and ter Meulen explains, “One of the firm’s first projects was the redevelopment of Times Square. As a native New Yorker, I remember how crummy Times Square was and to walk through now and see what a great success story it has become is exciting. A much smaller project we consulted on was the restoration of the historic Hunterfly Road Houses of the Weeksville Heritage Center in Brooklyn. In the 1840s, Weeksville was one of the first free African American communities in New York City. Without a doubt, the most satisfying project of all was serving as the project administrator for the World Trade Memorial Design Competition. It was a very healing experience after 9/11.”

When asked what she likes the most about her job, ter Meulen replies, “We are problem solvers, first and foremost, and I love problem solving. I also enjoy the interaction with other creative, thinking people, being strategic and tactical and making breakthrough choices, and being a catalyst for change. And yes, I love being an entrepreneur and being my own boss.”

As she looks back on her experience at SICC and Richmond College, ter Meulen recalls that it changed her life. In regard to SICC, she says, “I was a teenager in the pre-Women’s Movement 1960s, and it was far from automatic, as girls, that we would go to college. I also left high school before graduating to become a mother. At the time it was SICC that gave me the opportunity to enter into the college stream with a GED and a strong desire to study and improve my son’s and my life. I’m very proud now that my son Richard Zerilli is a Lieutenant in the FDNY.”

Ter Meulen waxes nostalgic when she remembers the days prior to her graduation from Richmond College. “I don’t know where many of us would be had it not been for the Women’s Movement, and Richmond College at that time was the hotbed of radical thinking in the CUNY system. We had some wonderfully strong women professors like Dr. Mirella Affron and Louise Fishman, and guest lecturers like Jill Johnstone. The professor who by far had the greatest effect on me was Bertha Harris.

In comparison to its two predecessor institutions, ter Meulen adds that she is very impressed with the present-day College of Staten Island. “I remember as a child living in Rosebank and SICC was located in a small office building on Bay Street. Richmond College didn’t even exist yet. And to visit CSI now and see how it has transformed into a truly special place with such great resources and gifted talent and a beautiful campus. Well, I think the students attending today are very, very lucky.”

Daniel Feldman

College of Staten Island Salutatorian Daniel Feldman plans to begin studying astronomy at Boston University as a PhD student in the fall. He received a BS in Physics as part of the Macaulay Honors College (MHC).

During his undergraduate studies, Feldman has taken part in numerous research projects covering a number of areas, such as asteroid tracking, studying youth indicators in M dwarf stars, examining objects in the Kuiper Belt, using high-resolution near-infrared spectroscopy techniques to help determine the physical properties of brown dwarfs, and even building a radio antenna to track solar flares.

He was selected to participate in the CUNY Summer Undergraduate Research Program (C-SURP) and the NSF Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) Program at Northern Arizona University

Commenting on the opportunities that his CSI education afforded him, he says, “CSI played an integral role in introducing me to the field of astronomy as an undergraduate. As soon as my freshman year, I began talking to and working with CSI Professor Charles Liu at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH)—this initial experience introduced me to the field I would come to love, and put me in a spot to secure future research projects. Through CSI Professor Irving Robbins’s mentorship, I gained research and teaching skills (and a job as an adjunct lab tech for CSI), which will be important in graduate school and beyond. My work with CSI Professor Emily Rice, Hunter Professor Kelle Cruz, and the entire [Brown Dwarf] research group at the AMNH taught me about collaborative science and has placed me in a solid position for future success in astronomy.”

After he completes his degree at Boston University, Feldman has aspirations of becoming a professor at a research institution.

Mark Barahman

Mark Barahman, a Macaulay Honors College (MHC) graduate who received his BS in Biochemistry, has been accepted into the Albert Einstein College of Medicine MDPhD program. During his time at CSI and MHC, Barahman received a number of prestigious honors, including a Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship, a first in the history of CSI, and a Phi Beta Kappa Associates Award. He worked in two laboratories at the College—the neuroscience lab of Professor Abdeslem El Idrissi and the chemistry lab of Professor Alan Lyons, performing research related to super-hydrophobic surfaces. One of Barahman’s most notable accomplishments under Dr. Lyons was the construction and programming of a robotic printer that prints in three dimensions (3D) on a microscopic scale.

Barahman grew up in Israel, working as a teenager as a first responder for MDA (Magen David Adom, or Red Star of David), an emergency medical organization, which is a member of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. He immigrated to Brooklyn in August 2006. During the summer of 2010, Barahman participated in NYU/Bellevue Hospital’s prestigious Project HealthCare summer program, in which he was able to work in the emergency room and operating room, where he interacted closely with patients and the hospital staff, as well as assisted with clinical research projects and work on the annual Bellevue health fair.

Looking back on his experiences at CSI and MHC, he said, “My time with the Honors College has been the most self-constructive in my life. I have learned, experienced, traveled, presented my work to experts, won awards, and most importantly – enjoyed the company of a terrific group of individuals. Every facet of my experience with the Macaulay Honors College at CSI has helped me shape my career aspirations – especially my research at CSI and clinical experience at Bellevue Hospital. Both of these were facilitated by the Macaulay Honors College and CSI staff dedicated to orienting students in their careers. Other accomplishments, such as winning the Goldwater Scholarship and gaining acceptance to one of the most prestigious graduate programs in the country, came from the breadth of opportunities provided by the amazing experience Macaulay is responsible for and the guidance of dedicated staff and faculty.”

Although he said that he can’t predict his exact career path after Albert Einstein, Barahman noted that he is “interested in working in the field of biomedical engineering – especially tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. I am hoping to work both as a scientist, making discoveries and contributing significantly in these fields,
and also practicing medicine in a capacity that allows me to utilize my findings – effectively translating basic research into true clinical impact.

[video] The Underground Railroad’s Trail to Freedom

Debbie-Ann Paige recently appeared on Secrets of New York, which aired on NYC Life, as a Sandy Ground Historian.

In cooperation with the Sandy Ground Historical Society, College of Staten Island graduate student Debbie-Ann Paige has worked tirelessly over the past several years to document the presence of Underground Railroad way-stations on Staten Island.

Specifically, she has examined the participation of Louis Napoleon, a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad and an important link in the long chain of abolitionists who assisted self-liberated slaves as they passed through Staten Island and New York on their way to Canada. Her research has resulted in Louis Napoleons’s house being named a national landmark.

“Staten Island does not get enough attention as a stop on the Underground Railroad,” according to Paige, who joined the College to earn a BA in History after retiring from the military. Until Paige, very little has been said about how the free Black community of Staten Island played a role in the liberation of freed slaves.

“So much here needs to be uncovered,” said Paige when discussing Staten Island’s role in African American history.

Paige, who grew up in Staten Island, admits that she knew very little about Black history before she began researching the subject.  It was not until she moved back to Staten Island with her husband who had served in the military for 20 years that she decided to return to CSI and study history. “I always had this love for genealogy,” she said, addressing why she chose history as her area of concentration.  She then began studying slavery and started “narrowing the scope” to the abolitionists in Staten Island.

Paige is currently writing her Master’s thesis tentatively titled “Race and Anti-Slavery Politics on Staten Island,” but her work at CSI is only the tip of the iceberg.  Along with writing her thesis, working 50 hours a week, and her work collaborating with Sandy Ground, she also recently appeared on an episode of Secrets of New York, which aired on NYC Life, as a Sandy Ground Historian discussing the Underground Railroad.

“I feel like a scholar,” Paige said, while discussing her accomplishments.  “It’s an amazing feeling.”

The MA is not the final stop in Paige’s academic career.  The founding member and first Vice President of the Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society at CSI plans on obtaining a PhD in Archival Studies and hopes to one day work for a historical society of her own, gathering collections for museums and academic libraries.  She credits her professors at CSI, namely Jonathan Sassi, Associate Professor of History and Chair of the History Department, for helping her focus by “constantly challenging me at every turn.”

“I have enjoyed working with Debbie-Ann Paige as her thesis advisor, because she combines her passion for history with a doggedness in the archives that has yielded original findings,” said Professor Sassi.

Paige’s work has even garnered national attention as the National Parks Service designated Louis Napoleon’s house a national landmark due to her research.

“While historians have long acknowledged the importance of Staten Island resident abolitionists like Sidney Howard Gay, secretary of the American Anti-Slavery Society, and the Shaw family of St. George, very little has been said about how the free Black community of Staten Island played a role in this story. I am proud that Ms. Paige’s efforts have resulted in the National Park Service officially recognizing and commemorating Napoleon’s participation,” noted Catherine Lavender, Director of the American Studies Program and Associate Professor with the College’s History Department.

The work was a labor of love. Paige said that she relishes the opportunity to prove her ideas to other academics. “I love the research.  I love the hunt,” she said.  “Not enough scholars give genealogy, the micro-economics of history, enough attention.”

[video] From CSI to Harvard, Valedictorian Irvin Ibarguen Exemplifies What Can Be Achieved


Irvin Ibarguen (center, bottom) credits the support of his family for making his academic dreams a reality. (Photo courtesy of the Ibarguen family.)

Irvin Ibarguen, College of Staten Island Valedictorian for 2012, is the first CSI undergraduate to be admitted into Harvard University’s prestigious PhD History program.

View his commencement address.

Irvin, a senior History major with The Verrazano School honors program, began his college career as a Marketing major. When asked why he made the switch from Marketing to History, Irvin answered, “People usually think of history as a set of names and dates, but, in reality, it’s a lively and, at times, acrimonious debate. I wanted to be a part of it.”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZjUQ4Gd5Ew[/youtube]Although Irvin is aware of his achievements, he regards his admittance to Harvard’s PhD program as one stop in a long, academic ride, which so far has earned him several scholarships including an IME Research Fellowship: a full-tuition scholarship awarded to Mexican Americans, and the prestigious Jeannette K. Watson Fellowship, which provides undergraduates with three consecutive summer internships.

As part of the Watson fellowship, Irvin has worked for the Institute of International Education; Crain’s New York Business, writing several articles for the seminal business newsletter; and will be traveling to Tunis, Tunisia to work for Amideast, a non-profit organization offering education activities in the Middle East, as a program assistant.  “Tunisia will be a radically different experience,” said Irvin. “I am looking forward to the challenge.”

Irvin maintained a 4.0 GPA and is quick to credit his CSI professors, namely, Drs. Calvin Holder and Richard Lufrano of the History department, for establishing “my love for reading and writing about History.”

On Irvin’s success at CSI, Dr. Lufrano noted: “In my 25 years of college teaching at different institutions, Irvin is among the top two undergraduates I have taught.”

Irvin especially credits his family with supporting him throughout his scholastic life.  His parents moved here in 1990 while his mother was still pregnant with him.

Growing up in a small apartment with ten inhabitants would seem like a drawback to many people but to Irvin it was more of a blessing. “I was never alone… They were the best support group,” he said of his parents who worked several jobs while raising him. “I was able to focus exclusively on my education.”

A graduate of Midwood High School in Brooklyn, Irvin also credits his background for motivating him to pursue a History PhD. “The scorn directed at illegal aliens often found its way down to me,” said Irvin, who admits to having distanced himself from his heritage while growing up. It was not until Irvin enrolled in an advanced seminar, in which he completed a paper about Mexican immigrants in New York City that he was able to “embrace the beauty of [his] Mexican background.”

At Harvard, Irvin hopes to continue to write about illegal immigration in a way that can contribute to ongoing debates.  In this regard, his background puts him in a unique position. “I am here because of the sacrifices of ‘illegal immigrants’ and I am deeply respectful of their plight, but I also grew up detached from them, so I can analyze their history with an interesting mix of passion and objectivity.”

Irvin eventually hopes to publish his dissertation, and establish himself in a tenure-track professor position where he can produce quality scholarship and influence students’ lives for the better.

For now though, he is “simply grateful to the CSI community for its constant support, especially Dr. Lufrano, Dr. Holder, [The Verrazano School’s] Katie Geschwendt, and [the Career and Scholarship Center‘s] Dr. Geoffrey Hempill.”

Where Are They Now? – Chin Ming “Benjamin” Hui ’09

When Benjamin Hui came to the U.S. from China at the age of 17, he could barely speak English. Thanks to his U.S.-based cousin, Amy Leong, who took him under her wing and helped teach him English, Benjamin flourished at CSI, working with Assistant Professor of Chemistry Dr. Michal Kruk. After graduation, he went into the Doctoral Program in Chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU).

“At CMU,” Hui reports, “I am in the same group as Saadyah [Averick], working with Prof. Matyjaszewski. Our group is a polymer science research group. We focused a lot on kinetic, mechanism studies as well as applications of polymeric products. My specialty is to combine polymer and inorganic components together to optimize both chemical and physical properties. Such materials retain the chemical  advantages of the polymer and inherit thermal, mechanical, and optical properties from the additive particles. For example, we intended to make commercially available polymer products stronger while keeping their flexibility.”

Hui is glad to be a part of this program. “Being here gives me a great opportunity to get closer to science,” he says. “In this group, the majority of senior graduate students already have a master’s degree and are very experienced; they are all very nice and helpful. We also have a lot of collaboration opportunities with different companies, (e.g., PPG, Dow, Air Force, etc.) This prepares us to work as professional scientists in the future.”

Hui recalls that he is thankful for the help of a number of people at CSI. “First is my previous research adviser Prof. Kruk. The second is Mrs. Evans-Greene, the Discovery Institute Director for Minority Access Programs. The third is Dr. Geoff Hempill, the Coordinator of Fellowships and Scholarships Career at the Scholarship Center.”

More specifically, he notes, “The main thing that brings me to this point is Prof. Kruk. He is a very nice person, who helped me in all dimensions of my development. When I was still fresh to America with not much knowledge in chemistry, he taught me everything, step by step, and asked me to go further to graduate study. I also like every professor I had when I was at CSI. When I needed recommendations to graduate school, I got very nice recommendation letters from more than 15 professors.

Looking ahead to further research in environmental and energy issues after graduating from CMU, Hui says, “I will try to become a professor who is as helpful as Prof. Kruk to pass his spirit to the next generation.”

Read more from Eye on CSI on CSI Alumni Today.

Where Are They Now? – Janine Lechillgrien ’05

After her time at CSI, Janine LeChillgrien found a career with a Web company that many of us use every day, Google. “I currently work with the Mobile Ad Sales division of the Display Advertising organization at Google,” she explains. “I work with Fortune 500 clients in the Tech space, like HP, Samsung, Dell, Sony, Toshiba, and others. As an Account Manager, it’s my job to keep the clients happy, and help them grow their business through advertising on mobile devices, like cell phones and tablets.”

Discussing what she likes best about her job, LeChillgrien says, “My favorite aspect is playing the role of the problem solver. If my client is looking to reach adults who like movies, I can find specific sites and apps that skew high among this demographic to help them sell their product and fulfill their marketing needs. Google has so many great advertising products that it makes it very easy to find custom solutions. I also love working in a fun atmosphere with smart, interesting, and fun colleagues. Google creates a wonderful work environment and really values each employee, which drives us all to work harder and have fun while we are doing it.”

Reminiscing about her time at CSI, LeChillgrien notes that her experience at the College “helped me really understand what it was like to be in the corporate world. The marketing courses I took helped prepare me for presentations in front of clients, and gave me the confidence to be able to speak intelligently on how the products I sell now fit into my clients’ marketing mix. I also was in charge of my college career—I got to choose my path, and that really helped me shape my work career. I felt like I was ready to hit the ground running when I graduated. My degree had an interesting effect—many people might be impressed by a degree from an Ivy League school, but smart employers know that The City University of New York breeds super-hard workers. CSI’s large and diverse class schedule gave me the freedom to have an internship, a part-time job, and work at the campus radio station. This experience outside of the classroom made all the difference in my career.”

What does the future hold? “I’ve currently got my eye on a promotion,” she says, “and am working toward taking on some more responsibility among my group of account managers. I love working in Ad Sales, but I also have an interest in corporate training, so next year I might start taking courses here at Google to help me develop those skills. In the near future, I am looking forward to crushing my end-of-year revenue goals, and taking some time off in Mexico at the end of the month to recharge for 2012.”