“CSI’s Got Talent” Wows Again!

The fourth annual CSI’s Got Talent competition featured a rich mosaic of student talent who brought their best to the spotlight at the sold-out event in the College of Staten Island’s Center for the Arts.

Hosted by Sal Vulcano from TruTV’s Impractical Jokers and Jay Miller from Mid Evenings with Jay Miller, 12 student contestants went head-to-head for the grand prize of $2500, second place prize of $1000, and the $500 third place prize.

1st Place: Junwei Jiang, a freshman at CSI who is also a classical pianist, took home the first place grand prize. Jiang started learning piano at the age of 10 and progressed quickly. He was soon accepted to the Manhattan School of Music Precollege Division, where he studied for two years and was exposed to a wide breath of musical styles. A piano accompanist for his high school choir for four years, Jiang twice received the “Outstanding Student Accompanist” award in Festival Disney Competition. He continues to pursue his dream of becoming a professional pianist.

2nd Place: Comfort Gwelekai is a junior at CSI majoring in Social Work. Born in West Africa, Gwelekai came to the United States at the age of 3 and fell in love with poetry in third grade. She has been writing ever since. Self-admittedly, she is infatuated with the power of words, and has performed in countless poetry competitions, including the New York Knicks Poetry Slam throughout high school.  Gwelekai was first published in 2012 as second place winner in the Random House Writing contest.

3rd Place: Deanna DeSio has dreamed of performing on stage ever since she was little. She found CSI’s Got Talent, and the amazing people she met, as a source of inspiration. With a devotion to her family and friends who have continuously supported her passions, she is deeply thankful for everyone that made her dream, and the dreams of all of the other finalists, come true.

“This is a magical event that unites our campus through talent, fun and camaraderie,” noted Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. A. Ramona Brown. “Our students are fabulous and bring amazing talent to the competition year after year.”

Anton Mararenko, MHC Class of 2015, Earns Jonas Salk Scholarship

Anton Mararenko presents his breast cancer research at the CSI Undergraduate Conference on Research, Scholarship, and Performance earlier this month.

Anton Mararenko, Class of 2015, Macaulay Honors College at the College of Staten Island earned the prestigious CUNY Jonas E. Salk Scholarship. The Salk scholarship identifies students entering the fields of medicine and the biological sciences who are most likely to make an impact on medicine and research.

Mararenko is a graduating senior of the Macaulay Honors College who is majoring in biochemistry with a minor in business. He has recently been accepted to the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine, where he will pursue a doctorate in medicine. Anton has an excellent academic record as well as extra-curricular and community service activities.

Like Jonas Salk, Mararenko was inspired to pursue research that will provide great benefits for future medical treatment. He has worked with his long-time mentor, Professor Sebastian Poget, on research concerning factors that affect mutations in proteins, which has been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

Interested in biotechnology and virology, Mararenko believes it is possible to repair and enhance the human body using genetics just as antibiotic-resistant cells can be developed using viral vectors. Pharmacology, he added, is one of the biggest sectors of medicine than can be greatly enhanced. In his research in Professor Shuiqin Zhou’s laboratory he helped show that it is possible to introduce a mutation into an enzyme that can change its specificity towards a substrate. Such successes can bolster understanding of protein folding and confirm theories about amino acid interactions, he added, laying the groundwork for a field that can specialize in designing and synthesizing enzymes for specific purposes. Such purposes might include creating molecular sanitation agents that break down synthetic materials that pollute the earth as well as changing the enzymes that we know of within organisms.

About the Jonas Salk Scholarship

Created by the Board of Estimate of the City of New York in 1955 to honor the City College graduate who developed the first anti-polio vaccine, the Jonas Salk scholarships are awarded annually to eight graduates of the CUNY senior colleges. The scholarships are awarded to students who have been accepted to a U.S. medical school and have performed scientific research as an undergraduate. The student’s research papers are reviewed and recipients are selected for their potential to make significant contributions to medical research. The winners receive a total of $8,000 ($2,000 per year for four-year medical schools) to help defray the cost for the MD, PhD, or DSc in Biomedical Sciences or DO degree. Two paid summer internships at the Salk Institute for Biomedical Studies in La Jolla, California may also be available to recipients of the Salk Scholarship. Students must apply for the scholarship through their campus pre-medical office.

Michele Galati, Fellowship & Scholarship Advisor, CSI Career & Scholarship Center and the CUNY Office of Communications, have contributed to this report.

[video] Rap Video Wins “Best Song” in the 2014 Society for Neuroscience Brain Awareness Video contest

[youtube]http://youtu.be/TM7p_sE7aSQ[/youtube] In 1967, Lou Reed, with his band The Velvet Underground and Nico, famously sang “Heroin,” which troubled many listeners with its near endorsement-like treatment of the drug. Later, in the 1990’s, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails wrote the song, “Hurt,” which chronicled the massive emotional and psychological devastation left behind due to use of the drug. The song received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rock Song in 1996, and was subsequently recorded by Johnny Cash as one of his final releases.

Over the several decades that pop culture and music have attempted to highlight the effects that heroin and other drugs have caused people the world over, none have addressed heroin in quite the way that College of Staten Island Psychology major and now YouTube rapper sensation Michael Stendardi has with “~Neuroscience Minds~.”

Stendardi’s award-winning music video needs your vote today to win a People’s Choice Award from Brainfacts.org.

By blending the strength of pop music as a vehicle for his message with his class’s knowledge of the chemical responses of the human brain to drugs, Michael, or “NeuroMic,” as his YouTube handle reads, hopes to make people aware of the brain’s response to these drugs.

The video, which Michael produced last spring as part of a class project for Dr. Dan McCloskey’s Physiological Psychology class, has already garnered great reviews and even earned Michael an award for “Best Song” from the 2014 Society for Neuroscience Brain Awareness video contest.

The project tasked students with making videos to teach the general public about the brain. In the video, Michael raps throughout the halls of the CSI Center for Developmental Neuroscience (CDN) describing the effect of drugs on the brain. A big part of that video was a poem by Michael about heroin and its effects on the brain.

Dr. McCloskey was impressed and told the class about the Society for Neuroscience Brain Awareness Video Contest and “Michael just took off with it,” exclaimed Dr. McCloskey. “It was almost as if he wrote the lyrics for this song overnight, but the accuracy of the information and quality of the rhymes shows that a lot of thought and research went into it.”

“Neuroscience is a strength at CSI,” Dr. McCloskey continued. “It’s nice to have an anthem.”

Michael then recruited his friend, Joe Ocasio, aka, “The Janitor,” who created all of the instrumentals and donated his time and video/audio producing expertise.

The quirky and catchy video has earned plenty of recognition since he posted it to YouTube this past August and he is now setting his sights on a People’s Choice Award from Brainfacts.org, which you can vote on here http://www.brainfacts.org/Educators/Get-Involved/Articles-Folder/Peoples-Choice. Voting ends on September 30.

The video, produced by @Janitorsbeats, can be watched in full here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=TM7p_sE7aSQ

CSTEP Students Win First Place 7th Year in a Row

CSI brings home the honors at the 7th Annual Statewide Student Science Competition in Lake George, NY.

For the seventh year in a row, a College of Staten Island student earned first- place honors in at least one category at the 22nd Annual CSTEP Statewide Student Conference at The Sagamore on Lake George in Bolton Landing, NY.

In his first presentation ever, Joseph Inigo earned first place in BioChemistry for his poster titled “Targeted and Lipid-Complexed Forms of Curcumin as a Remedy for Brain Tumors,” which studies the culinary spice turmeric and its anticancer properties. Inigo, an alum of The Verrazano School‘s Class of 2013,  believes that his lab’s research “brings the promise of replacing chemo- and radiation therapies, which cause serious side effects without actually curing the disease.”

Senior Psychology major Lee Han earned Honorable Mention in the Psychology Category for his poster “Mind Wandering and Eye Movement.” Han spent 126 hours in the lab studying CSI students and their ability to focus on lectures.

As it is every year, the competition was fierce as the CSI students presented alongside students from such prestigious New York universities as NYU, Columbia, Syracuse, Cornell, and LIU—as well as all 24 CUNY colleges. The conference weekend is a time and place where CSTEP students from all over the state have the opportunity to interact with likeminded students and attend workshops that address academic development, networking, social development, and graduate school.  They learned about interviewing and table etiquette.

“Many CSTEP students are first-generation graduates,” explained Debra Evans-Greene, CSI Project Director for the Office of Access and Success Programs. She believes that programs such as CSTEP “level the playing field for students belonging to historically underrepresented groups or families that are financially unstable.”

She went on to discuss the CSTEP conference and the dose of healthy competition that it provides, saying that it “gives the students an opportunity to hone their presentation skills.  It holds them accountable and helps them become specialists in their fields.”

The conference is also a great initiation into the world of math and science for those who did not present but are preparing to do so in the near future. Mark Blounte, a sophomore Biology major was selected to serve as a CSTEP Ambassador for the conference while he is preparing his poster for next year.  He called the chance to attend this year’s conference a “huge opportunity.”

Mark worked most of the conference, helping organize the presenters’ research and show attendees where to go but he admits he took every opportunity to “observe and learn” from the students presenting.

Originally from Guyana and planning on researching embryonic development—he wants to be a cardiologist—Mark said that the best part of the conference was “the research—seeing how dedicated the researchers are to their fields. An event like this is definitely a stepping stone for many students.”

Evans-Greene, who has been with CSI’s CSTEP program for 20 years said over that time, “students have really benefited and they are constantly returning to the program as Master’s and PhD students to mentor the undergraduates and continue their research with our amazing science faculty.”

After last year’s victory, Evans-Greene predicted a seventh win in a row. She now claims that she is done with predictions because it would be more of a surprise if at least one CSI-CSTEP student did not win a category. “That is just how great our CSTEP program and our students are.”

Alexis Booker receives Peter Jennings Scholarship

Suri Duitch, CUNY Dean for Continuing Education and Deputy to the Senior University Dean for Academic Affairs, Kayce Freed Jennings, and Alexis Booker are joined by CUNY Chancellor James B. Milliken.

When Alexis Booker first enrolled in the College of Staten Island’s adult education program to earn a General Equivalency (GED) Diploma, little did he expect that a few years later he would be standing on stage next to nine others at the 12th Annual Peter Jennings Scholarship Laurel Award ceremony held at The City University of New York (CUNY)’s Graduate Center.

The June 2014 event, held to honor students who graduate from CUNY’s Adult Literacy/GED programs, awarded $1,500 scholarships to Booker and nine others who have successfully earned their GED and have enrolled at a CUNY college.

The funding for this important program was made possible by the generous contributions from the Peter Jennings Foundation, named after the anchor of ABC TV’s World News Tonight who died in 2005 at age 67.

It was in 2003 when Jennings was awarded the CUNY Chancellor’s Medal for his extraordinary achievements in journalism and his contributions as a role model and catalyst for a better-informer citizenry.  Jennings took a strong interest in CUNY’s Adult Literacy/GED Program and spoke passionately about its mission. More than 100 GED graduates have launched their academic careers at CUNY with the help of the Peter Jennings Scholarships.

The scholarships, supported by his widow, Kayce Freed Jennings, are funded through the generosity of the Abernathy MacGregor Group and the Peter Jennings Foundation.

The ceremony was moderated by Jay Hershenson, CUNY Senior Vice Chancellor for University Relations and Secretary of the Board with remarks by CUNY Chancellor James B. Milliken and a Keynote Address by Manhattan Borough President The Honorable Gale Brewer.

Suri Duitch, CUNY Dean for Continuing Education and Deputy to the Senior University Dean for Academic Affairs, who, along Kayce Freed Jennings, introduced the scholarship recipients. Duitch told the attendees the story of how Alexis, who lost his mother when he was eight and became a father when he was 18, became motivated to go to school.

“After many years of working and wondering how his life would have been different had he stayed in school, he happened to overhear a conversation between a mother and son, the other encouraging her son to go back to school,” Duitch said. “Alexis decided to take her advice and enrolled in an High School Equivalency (HSE) class at College of Staten Island’s Adult Learning Center. He felt fearful about comprehending the work and competing with a younger generation, but he soon got into the rhythm of being a student.”

Dean Duitch also addressed Booker’s “gift for writing and willingness to be open to criticism,” adding, “Alexis also became the scribe for a disabled classmate who couldn’t take notes in class and the two became close friends.”

Alexis Booker is now a proud freshman at CSI where he plans to major in Journalism and Communications, and to someday write short stories and children’s books.

MHC’s Christina Vicidomini wins prestigious Salk Scholarship

Christina Vicidomini

Christina Vicidomini, a 2013 graduate of the Macaulay Honors College at the College of Staten Island (CSI), has earned a prestigious Jonas Salk Scholarship. Vicidomini earned one of only eight coveted awards presented to CUNY students annually.  The award will provide $8,000 to apply toward medical school tuition.

The Salk program was created in 1955 to honor Dr. Jonas E. Salk, the 1934 graduate of City College who discovered the polio vaccine. Highly selective, the Salk Scholarship identifies students entering the fields of medicine and the biological sciences who are most likely to make an impact on medicine and research.

Vicidomini majored in Psychology at CSI with a particular interest in the study of the nervous system. She served as a research assistant on a project investigating behaviorally relevant changes in brain development following prenatal hypothyroidism in rats. She spent time at both CSI and the New York State Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities to complete this project.

“Ultimately, my strong work ethic comes from my self-sufficiency and determination to achieve a goal. As the first person in my family to further my education after high school, I have learned to become very independent in my studies, and also about the true definition of hard work,” said Vicidomini.  “In doing so, I have developed crucial traits of commitment and stamina that I will carry over into my training, and ultimately my career.”

“Christina’s passion for research and unfailing work ethic led her to become an exemplary Macaulay Scholar,” says Lisa French, Macaulay’s Associate Director and Advisor at CSI.  “She is a source of inspiration for many of her classmates.”

“Working in a lab as an undergraduate has given me invaluable skills and knowledge and has helped me to prepare for a career in medicine,” adds Vicidomini. I was able to present my work at an undergraduate research conference at the College last spring, and will be credited as a co-author of papers that are published on this research in the future. The staff of Macaulay has advised, prepared, and encouraged me in a very individualized manner, and I can truly say that I have benefited from the opportunities and advantages of this esteemed program.’

Vicidomini will be attending New York Institute of Technology – College of Osteopathic Medicine. The first person in her family to pursue a higher education, Christina Vicidomini is a psychology major who intends to research neuroscience in her medical studies. She traces her curiosity in how the brain impacts the rest of the body to a six-year stint working in a Brooklyn pastry shop, noting the array of psychological traits among the customers. She honed her clinical skills as a medical assistant and volunteer in hospital and private office settings.


 About College of Staten Island

The College of Staten Island is a senior college of The City University of New York (CUNY) offering associates, bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees.   CSI is home to a School of Business, School of Education, School of Health Sciences, The Verrazano School Honors Program, the Teacher Education Honors Academy, and is a select campus of the Macaulay Honors College University Scholars program. For more information, visit csi.cuny.edu

About Macaulay Honors College

Macaulay Honors College at The City University of New York offers exceptional students a uniquely personalized education with access to the vast resources of the nation’s largest urban university and New York City itself.   Selected for their top high school records and leadership potential, Macaulay students receive a full-tuition scholarship, a laptop and technology support, and an Opportunities Fund to pursue global learning and service opportunities. Macaulay students enroll in one of eight CUNY senior colleges (Baruch, Brooklyn, City, Hunter, John Jay, Lehman, Queens and Staten Island). For more information, see macaulay.cuny.edu

Academy of Retired Professors Awards Scholarship

CSI student Chandramauli Akidari, recipient of the second annual ARP scholarship, speaks at the fifth annual ARP luncheon.

The Academy of Retired Professors (ARP) celebrated the end of the academic year by awarding their second annual scholarship to Chandramauli Akidari, a School of Business student, triple majoring in Accounting, Finance, and Economics.

Adikari, an international student who is a native of Sri Lanka, noted the many benefits that he has experienced at CSI, “The quality, unique standards, phenomenal tutoring services, and outstanding professors are making my career a safe ride in my life.” He thanked the professors for the honor of recognizing him with a scholarship and the financial relief that it will afford him while he pursues his dream to practice and teach accounting.

Joan Hartman, retired Dean, presented Chandramauli Adikari as this year’s ARP Scholarship recipient. The award provides faculty with the opportunity to remember exceptional students they taught at CSI. Scholarships given in the name of retired faculty and staff express appreciation of and respect for those students who follow them.

Joining the members of ARP at their fifth annual luncheon in the Center for the Arts were special guests CSI President Dr. William J. Fritz and his wife, Dr. Bonnie Fritz. The President praised the contributions of the retired faculty and noted their crucial role in the history of the College, making special mention of their connection to CSI and its predecessor institutions’ past presidents. To honor and remember the rich history of CSI and its predecessor institutions, Dr. Fritz announced that portraits of the former presidents have been installed outside the President’s Office for all visitors to view.

Prof. Currie presented Jennifer Lynch, Associate Director of Annual Giving, with a certificate of appreciation for her assistance with coordinating their efforts during the academic year.

Those also in attendance included:

Howard Baumel, Joel Berger, Fairfid (Lorie) Caudle, Margaret Currie, Sherman Heller, Ann Helm, Jed Luchow, Roberta Klibaner, Ann Merlino, Peter Nigro, Howard Pierano, James Sanders, Morty Schiff, Joel Schwartz, David Seeley, Miriam Tausner, Roberta Vogel, Yousef Mohamed, Steve and Erika Zuckerman, and Interim Vice President for Institutional Advancement and External Affairs Janine Scaff.

Co-chaired by retired Professors Irene Deitch (Psychology) and Richard Currie (English), ARP seeks to provide opportunities for its members to come together for social, recreational, and educational purposes, in support of the College and student success. ARP is comprised of faculty from CSI and its predecessor institutions, Staten Island Community College and Richmond College.