[gallery] Top Scholars Recognized at Fourth Annual Honors Convocation

Brian Kateman
Brian Kateman
Brian Kateman (left) addresses the audience. President Morales, right.

The College of Staten Island honored its top students, with the help of their friends and families, last night at the fourth annual Honors Convocation, which was held in the Center for the Arts Concert Hall. The event’s emcee was Dr. A. Ramona Brown, CSI Vice President for Student Affairs.

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College President Dr. Tomas D. Morales, in his greetings to the attendees, emphasized the transformation of CSI students, and of the College itself, “You are graduating during a period of remarkable transformation at the College of Staten Island. This academic year, a new mission statement was developed by the College that will guide our great institution for the next five years. Central to our new mission is our uncompromising and absolute commitment to student success and achievement, which will continue to elevate our College. As students graduating with honors, each and every one of you represents this ongoing transformation of the College of Staten Island as an outstanding public institution of higher education. And for that, I applaud you.”

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After greetings from CSI Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. William Fritz, the Class of 2011 Salutatorian Brian Kateman, who will be receiving a BS in Biology, gave the student address.

In his remarks, Kateman shared his philosophy of life, stating, “The truth is this: life is beyond total control. As a scientist, this has been the most difficult lesson for me to learn. Thankfully, through wonderful mentorship from the CSI faculty, I now know that success and happiness stems not from defining and designing our lives but from having the belief in ourselves to cope with its vicissitudes and capricious nature.”

Following the student address, Carol Brower, Director of Student Life, presented the Student Dolphin Awards to Michael Maslankowski and Jolanta Smulski. (They will receive the actual awards at the Dolphin Award ceremony following Commencement.)

In addition, Dr. Ann Lubrano, Acting Associate Provost for Undergraduate Studies and Academic Programs presented certificates of completion for the Melissa Riggio Program.  Christine Flynn Saulnier, Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences, and Dr. Alfred Levine, Interim Dean of Science and Technology, presented the Academic Honors and Student Service Leadership Awards.

Dr. A. Ramona Brown chaired the Honors Convocation committee and was the presiding officer.

CSI/National Grid Help Knowledge Take Flight

[flowplayer src=’https://csitoday.com/wp-content/uploads/video-player/assets/video/natgrid_2010.mov’ width=320 height=180 splash=’https://csitoday.com/wp-content/uploads/video-player/assets/images/natgrid_2010.jpg’]Students from Port Richmond, Curtis, Susan E. Wagner, and New Dorp high schools recently had a unique opportunity to come to the campus of the College of Staten Island and learn various aspects of engineering, thanks to National Grid’s “Engineering Our Future” initiative. This unique workshop was sponsored by National Grid in partnership with the College’s Liberty Partnership Program (LPP).

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Loretta Smith, National Grid director of corporate citizenship, said: “National Grid is taking action through ‘Engineering Our Future’ to inspire youth and attract and develop engineers to make sure there are enough engineers in the future workforce. We are happy to partner with organizations like CSI and the Liberty Partnerships program to encourage students of all ages and backgrounds to study math, science, technology, and engineering in order to create a corps of smart, dedicated, and highly trained engineers to build the next-generation energy delivery system, including smart grids and other emerging high-tech systems.”

During the workshops students studied diverse engineering concepts such as airplane design and flying (aeronautical engineering) that included building and flying their own model planes; digital circuit design in which they performed several hands-on exercises in the laboratory that taught them about modern circuits and applications (electronics engineering); and fabrication in which they built their own chassis for technology applications using engineering techniques in the fabrications lab (mechanical design and engineering).

As part of the aeronautical engineering exposure, the students learned how to fly planes using a realistic simulator kit on a computer before they actually went out and constructed and flew a model airplane. As a result the students gained an appreciation for the concept of simulation in engineering.

Shawn Landry of the Liberty Partnership Program, commented “The students participated in the workshops in small teams and in addition to experiments, they learned problem solving and project management skills to complete their tasks. The ability to learn and achieve a tangible goal in each session influences the student’s confidence as well as competence. Several students involved want to become pilots and one an obstetrician. This program gives students the ability to come out of their comfort zones, explore different career paths, and meet other students from different schools and communities. Each opportunity to have an experiential learning experience is another step toward defining their dreams and turning them into goals. This was the third and final workshop series funded by National Grid and the impact on self-esteem and career exposure to our students has been phenomenal.”

Landry also underscored a deeper meaning for the workshops for these students. “At this time of severe recession, CSI LPP and National Grid have continued their commitment to working with students and providing them with the academic and life skills they require to overcome societal boundaries of poverty and racial disparities and inequities through a series of Workshops exploring Engineering as a career path. The opportunity to be exposed to Science, Technology Engineering, and Applied Math (STEAM) career paths is priceless; these workshops give the students an experiential learning experience where they are introduced to aeronautics, physics, and engineering in a practical environment.”

For its part, National Grid is taking action to address the challenge of the impending critical shortage of utility engineers over the next five years. According to a 2009 report by the U.S. Power And Engineering Workforce Collaborative, over the next five years, approximately 45 percent of engineers in electric utilities will be eligible for retirement or could leave engineering for other reasons. The company’s innovative and comprehensive “Engineering Our Future” initiative is designed to inspire youth and attract and develop engineers. National Grid already has invested more than $3 million in this program to target students of all ages and backgrounds to encourage them to study science, technology, engineering, and math, collectively known as “STEM.”

CSI Chemistry Major Weighs Options for Grad School

The story of CSI Chemistry major and senior Chin Ming (Benjamin) Hui is one of perseverance and commitment, and one of great success. He has recently reported that he has gained acceptance to Doctoral Chemistry programs at Carnegie Mellon University, Stony Brook University, Binghamton University, and Temple University, but he faced many obstacles on his road to success.

Benjamin came to the United States from Hong Kong at the age of 17, barely able to speak English and unfamiliar with U.S. culture, but with a hope to someday find a cure for smallpox. The death of his father from cancer eventually energized his goal of pursuing a career in science. Benjamin recalls that his father was skilled in engineering, particularly when it came to fixing electronics in his family’s home, but his father never received a college education because he had to work to support his family. After his father’s death, Benjamin eventually came to realize that his own “tirelessness, studiousness, and intelligence were inherited from my father. I believed he would want me to use my talent to help people, instead of grieving. Therefore, I promised to save people from illness, and help everyone stay healthy. That’s why I am interested in researching in chemistry and medical technology.”

Eventually, Benjamin, who gained experience in engineering in his teens at a computer company, where he had to work to help support his family, came to CSI. “My enrollment at CSI turned my life 180 degrees. While attending school here, I have enjoyed many opportunities to gain the experimental knowledge and theoretical techniques, which have satisfied my interest in the mathematics and science fields. I have also broadened my knowledge and improved my language skills by attending scientific conferences. In addition, hands-on experiences in the laboratory, field work, and lectures from graduate students and leading researchers have engaged my mind and captured my interest. I believe that studying science is the only way to save the world from global warming and defend human beings against diseases. That’s why I am always curious about every matter that is happening in science field, which could not be demystified by other fields.”

Benjamin also received a scholarship from STEAM, which is short for Science & Technology Expansion via Applied Mathematics, a comprehensive, National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded program that expands and supports undergraduate education in all areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Benjamin recalls, “During the summer semester of 2006, I began a research project in chemistry, namely, the synthesis and characterization of large-pore silica under the direction of Dr. Michal Kruk who is an Assistant Professor at CSI. We proposed materials that were appropriated in drug delivery and catalysis in pharmaceutical science, as well as low-k insulating material, which is useful in the engineering industry. I want to thank you Dr. Kruk especially for babysitting me for more than three years. He has taught me a lot of knowledge in chemistry, and above all, in research. He does care about my study and future. He made me feel confident again as a foreign speaker, foreign student.”

As Benjamin pursued his studies at the College, he still didn’t have an easy time of it, having to work many jobs to support his family. In fact, he was often so tired from working that he was often drowsy in class. However, he carried on and gained the knowledge and expertise to make a number of graduate schools take notice.

As for the future, Benjamin looks forward to a career as a researcher and to contributing to academic society, after he receives his PhD.

Chin Ming (Benjamin) Hui and his mentor CSI Assistant Professor of Chemistry Dr. Michal Kruk.

Senior Accepted to Prestigious Summer Medical Program

As summer quickly approaches, many students are wondering what they will do over break. CSI Senior and Chemistry/Mathematics double-major Eric Rios-Doria doesn’t have that problem, as he has been accepted into the University of Iowa Summer Undergraduate Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) and Research (SUMR) Program, an intensive eight-week summer program where he will be exposed to MD/PhD training that includes performing biomedical research as well as shadowing a physician-scientist.

Regarding his acceptance, Rios-Doria says, “I am very excited to participate in this program…The academic program at the CSI Chemistry Department is one I have very much enjoyed and am glad I have met such great professors… I would also like to thank Prof. [Krishnaswami] Raja for allowing me to perform research in his laboratory and work on an independent project.

Rios-Doria is also a recipient of a scholarship from CSI’s STEAM (Science & Technology Expansion via Applied Mathematics), a comprehensive, National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded program that expands and supports undergraduate education in all areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. “STEAM has provided both academic and monetary support,” he notes “and I am most appreciative.”

In addition, he is on the Dean’s List, and is an LSAMP research scholar and CSTEP student. LSAMP is short for Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation, an NSF-funded program with the goal of increasing the quality and quantity of students successfully completing Bachelor’s degrees and gaining access to graduate programs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The C-STEP program at CSI aims to increase enrollment and graduation, among historically underrepresented students, in undergraduate and graduate programs leading to professional licensure or to careers in the fields of science, technology, and education.

Admitting that he has been interested in medicine since he was young, due to bouts with severe asthma that led to frequent hospitalizations when he was a child, Rios-Doria transferred to CSI in 2007. He recalls that he has “found so many more opportunities here than at my previous institution. The programs available to the students are invaluable …The opportunities that have been provided through [the College] have allowed to me to become a better researcher and attain invaluable skills both inside the classroom and laboratory and outside the classroom and laboratory. As an example, CSI has given me the opportunity to present my research at local, regional, and national conferences.”

After his arrival at CSI Rios-Doria began research in chemistry with Prof. Raja. Saying that Dr. Raja “has guided me and taught me how to become a better researcher,” he is now working on an independent project that will eventually become his senior thesis. Explaining the research, Rios-Doria states that “I am currently working on synthesizing a liquid crystal that will have photovoltaic applications. An example of such an application would be the cost-effective use for solar cells. It is looking very promising and should provide exciting results.”

Hoping eventually to gain acceptance into an MD/PhD program with the hope of practicing medicine while conducting further research, Rios-Doria credits CSI and the programs available to him at the College for his current success. “The education I have received at CSI has been fantastic. All the professors I have had have shown genuine interest in the students and have allowed for my proper scientific thought process to be established. With the offer from the University of Iowa, I believe the education provided by the fantastic instructors at CSI has prepared me for the challenges ahead in the summer and has also placed me at an advanced level of understanding difficult concepts being learned in universities nationwide.”

Eric Rios-Doria has been accepted into a prestigious summer program at the University of Iowa.