Catching Up with Macaulay Honors College Students

The Macaulay Honors College at CSI provides exceptional students with a vast array of opportunities to intern at prestigious institutions and companies, expanding their knowledge and professional experience and connections. Here is some of the latest news on some of MHC’s students:

Justin Peterkin (Physics ’21) will attend University of Maryland to pursue a PhD in Physics this fall. He is interested in condensed matter theory and in the properties of novel and exotic materials. He conducted undergrad Physics research at CSI, was a member of AstroCom, and did an NSF REU with Stony Brook University. This summer, he will intern with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) within their Physical & Computational Sciences Directorate, through the GEM Program.

Victoria Mollo (’22) has been accepted to participate in Purdue University’s 2021 Summer Research Opportunities Program. She will be focusing on the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on single mothers and their children to identify ways to help them cope/improve their current conditions.

Shawn Abraham (’21) has been accepted into Columbia University’s Master’s Program in the Institute for Social and Economic Research Policy, where he will be pursuing a Master’s in Quantitative Methods in the Social Sciences. Shawn completed a Wealth Management Internship with Merrill Lynch, triple-majored in Business Information Systems & Informatics/Economics/Finance and did undergraduate research with Dr. Jonathan Peters. This summer, he will be studying with the London School of Economics.

Syleste Alexander (Marketing ’22 with minors in Management and Art History) will be interning at the Whitney Museum this summer. She will be creating and executing efforts that promote the Whitney’s programs to the public while advancing the Museum’s broader branding goals. Syleste has previously interned as a Student Ambassador for the MOMA, as a Met Collective Ambassador with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and a social media intern for the Macaulay Honors College.

Veronica Pistek (Corporate Communications ’21) has accepted a full-time position with Merkley + Co (the ad agency that manages the Mercedes Benz account) as a media planner. Veronica was Editor in Chief of the CSI Banner and President of the CSI American Marketing Association. Veronica served as a CUNY Cultural Corps member with the SI Children’s Museum, focusing on social media marketing and development. She also interned with the Selective Corporate Internships program (SCIP).

Danielle Ohana (Bioinformatics ’22 on the Pre-Dental Track) will be working this summer in collaboration with the Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, operated by faculty of Harvard Medical School. She will be participating in animal trials that will quantify the ability of a new device to treat periodontitis in vivo using a Wistar rat ligature model. Successful results from these studies will be used to design human clinical trials in the future.

Senior Patryk Zagula (’21) will be attending Columbia University this fall (2021) to pursue a Master’s in Electrical Engineering. Patryk will specialize in smart electric energy—an area which focuses on the generation, conversion, and distribution of electrical energy. He will study the analysis and design of power electronics as well as motor drive and learn about alternative energy resources and electricity markets.

Maxwell Velikody (‘22 Political Science, Philosophy, History major) will be a Compliance Summer Analyst with Morgan Stanley. He has previously interned with Pfizer’s Compliance Business Unit, the New York and Richmond County DAs, the New York State Office of the Attorney General, and the Richmond County Surrogate’s Court.

By Anita Romano and Terry Mares ​​

Macaulay Honors College Student Maxwell Velikodny Working to Help the Community

Maxwell Velikodny ‘22

Macaulay Honors College student Maxwell Velikodny ‘22 has been very busy lately. Besides being the CSI Student Government President, and the Founder and President of the CSI Pre-Law Society, he has been interning in some interesting places.

He currently serves in the New York State Office of the Attorney General as a student mediator, working “on complaints between consumers and merchants within the Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau by engaging both parties, negotiating on behalf of the consumer, and drafting mediation letters.” He also has broad internship experience in the New York and Richmond county district attorneys’ offices, This summer, he will intern at Morgan Stanley.

However, it was last summer’s internship at Pfizer’s North America Compliance Unit that gave Velikodny an opportunity to make a difference in the fight against the coronavirus outbreak. “The COVID-19 [pandemic] resulted in many of Pfizer’s compliance systems having to be adjusted for the pandemic. I worked with my supervisor’s task force to help transition the Compliance Unit’s systems for the new virtual environment.”

His work on pandemic-related issues didn’t stop there. As part of another project, Velikodny coordinated a campaign with other interns to employ digital solutions to ensure that (mostly college-aged) adults are comfortable with the effectiveness and safety of the company’s COVID-19 vaccine.

Finally, Velikodny was able to assist in pro bono immigration cases involving marginalized individuals and communities. “To me, this was my favorite part of the internship because I felt like my actions and work were truly making a difference in someone’s life.”

After he graduates from CSI, Velikodny hopes to enroll in a law school dual degree program to earn both a Juris Doctorate (JD) and Master’s in Public Policy (MPP). His lifelong goal is to “give a voice to those underrepresented and advocate fervently on their behalf, while diligently serving the public.”

By Terry Mares

Sharmin Pathan ’19 Engineering a Bright Future

Sharmin Pathan working on the Satellite Design Project.

 

Watch out! Sharmin Pathan ’19 is taking on the world of science full throttle. Studies show that about 20 percent of engineering graduates are women, in which only 11 percent are practicing (Huffington Post). Hoping to make up the latter, Pathan, the 2017 National Grid scholarship recipient is taking an active role on campus to ensure that these figures become a thing of the past.

 

The 20-year-old Yonkers resident is currently the chapter president of the Society of Women in Engineering (SWE), and is in the process of starting her own SWE club. While some may find themselves overwhelmed with the responsibilities of leadership and time management, Pathan has extended herself beyond one activity to encourage other females to pursue their interests in fields that might otherwise shut them out. Pathan is currently a participant in SWE’s Satellite Design Project in which she lends her talents to 3D rendering of various satellite system components and research on the pico-satellite’s structures and mechanisms.

 

The Yonkers High School graduate is currently an intern for CSI’s Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP). STEP is a Saturday program that helps students from grades 7 through 12, who demonstrate an interest in fields of science, health, engineering, education (math and science), technology, and other licensed professions. As a participant, Pathan has assisted seventh and ninth graders in the Engineering field which she feels helps “encourage” and “inspire” them. She credits this opportunity and experience to STEP/Collegiate Science & Technology Entry Program (CSTEP), project director Debra Evans. Pathan feels as if the program has given her “the confidence to be more involved with students and encourage them to join STEM field majors.”

Pathan graduated from Yonkers High School.

 

Similarly, the Engineering Science major has been an asset to the program and community, as director Evans notes, “Bringing Sharmin Pathan into the lives of our youth was the best investment for the STEP program.  Sharmin has taken our seventh through ninth grade students on a Satellite journey, and our students are eager to attend the STEP program each Saturday morning. Thank you Sharmin for bringing academic excitement into the lives of our youth.”

Newly appointed CSTEP program coordinator Karl Francis has taken note of Pathan’s hard work and growth as a member of the College. Based on their previous experience, he recalls, “I’ve known Ms. Pathan in a number of different capacities, over the last couple of years as a member of the College of Staten Island SWE chapter, mechanical engineering research student on the Satellite design project, and within the last few months as a CSTEP Scholar; through all these experiences, Ms. Pathan consistently demonstrates, a commitment towards her academic, research, and career goals and a level of professionalism that not only gives rise to impressive results, but inspires others to do the same. This consequently, makes her a natural leader and excellent fit as the new CSI Chapter SWE President!”

Though she is incredibly active here on campus, the sophomore isn’t limiting her efforts to the CSI community. Born in Gujrat India, Pathan is still looking forward to studying abroad, preferably in Germany. While she continues to pursue her Bachelors, and subsequent Masters, Sharmin still finds time to reflect on her experience at CSI thus far which has sparked her own hopes to carry out philanthropic efforts. She states, “CSI has offered me so many outstanding opportunities to gain critical experience in my field. As I continue to get that support, one day, I hope to be in the position to give something back as well.”

In intensive fields where women often appear as hidden figures, Pathan and future counterparts to come, act as flashlights to a new path.

Palwasha Syar ’17: CSI Valedictorian Never Loses

Palwasha Syar poses at Commencement.

During her speech at the College of Staten Island’s (CSI) 68th Commencement, Palwasaha Syar ’17, CSI’s valedictorian of the graduating Class of 2017, quoted Nelson Mandela: “I never lose. I either win, or I learn.” Her meaningful words were in reference to the life lessons she learned during her time as a student at CSI.

Syar graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry with plans to attend medical school.

“CSI was the place where I was accepted for who I was. … leaving it is like leaving my home… CSI has also shaped me into the strong woman that I am today,” she said, while also conveying her sentiments of challenge and triumph at CSI.

Syar shared the spotlight with several of her fellow graduates, relaying stories about their varying struggles to arrive at graduation. One student, Erin Richards, a single mother of four, while attending classes also had to manage the care of her children. Another, Andrea Dalzell, was diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis and is currently graduating from the Nursing program.

Syar further asked those in attendance to “celebrate the people around you… Learning about people’s lives and the struggles they go through will give you new perspective on your problems… Learning about others allows us to connect with them. Listening to others’ stories gives us courage and remind us that we are not alone in our struggles.”

Syar has an impressive track record of being active outside of the classroom. Along with a long list of internships, she volunteered with the CSI Emerging Leaders and also joined the CUNY Service Corps, volunteering at the Staten Island Youth Court.

Palwasha Syar delivering her Commencement speech.

“I think it is very important to get experiences outside of the classroom… since I have been blessed with so much, it is very important for me to give back. I would like to continue my service in the future, and take my medical degree to work in impoverished areas,” noted Syar, who emigrated from Pakistan to the U.S. when she was 12 years old.

Facing both social and financial challenges when she arrived, and moving several times within New York State, she found it hard to make friends. Coupling this with her challenge to master the English language, the young Syar felt “lonely and isolated.”

During her initial visits to New York City, she was in awe of her new surroundings. She noted, “the skyscrapers in the city were so high that my hat used to fall of my head when I used to look up at them.”

After her plans to attend medical school, Syar plans to continue to give back to the community. She intends to open her own medical practice in the U.S. and also volunteer in poor and underserved areas in Pakistan.

“I would like to take the skills and values I have learned here and apply them to my service in developing countries,” she commented.

Syar concluded her speech by thanking her parents, sisters, and aunt, who came from Pakistan to attend the Commencement. She also thanked the faculty and staff who supported her and her friends who made her experience at CSI so memorable.

Syar proudly exclaimed, “It has been an absolute honor standing here in front of you all giving this speech. I would like to thank you all and Congratulations, Class of 2017!”

Scholar-Athlete Tim Sweeney ’17 Accepted to Columbia University

Tim Sweeney '17 has been accepted to a Master's Program at Columbia University.

College of Staten Island (CSI) student Tim Sweeney ’17 continues to swim in success as the captain of the CSI Men’s Swimming and Diving Team has been accepted to the Master of Science in Actuarial Science Program at Columbia University.

A Macaulay Honors College (MHC) student majoring in Mathematics, Sweeney led his team to three CUNYAC Championships in a row.

He is also a member of the Student Athletics Advisory Committee (SAAC) and a research assistant under Professor Jonathan Peters of the Finance Department at CSI. He showcased his project, “Geospatial Analysis of New For-Hire Vehicle Services in New York City,” at the 2016 CSI Undergraduate Research Conference.

Read more about Sweeney on CSI Today.com.

 

 

Rachel Furhang ’17 Takes on Research and Much More

Rachel Furhang working in Dr. Alonso's Lab.

Not only does Rachel Furhang ’17 have a white belt in jiu jitsu, she has certainly reached “black belt” status in the academic arena. The College of Staten Island (CSI) Macaulay Honors College (MHC) student is a recipient of the impressive Rosemary O’Halloran Scholarship. The Biochemistry major, who is minoring in Mathematics, is also working on an honors thesis in Biochemistry with Alejandra del Carmen Alonso, PhD, focusing on understanding the tau protein’s pathogenic state.

A graduate of Ma’ayanot Yeshivah High School in Teaneck NJ, the 21-year-old has always had a “clear vision” of what she wants to accomplish.

“When you are working toward a goal, all your choices become easier to make. That said, a goal is just the road map. Hard work will take you the rest of the way,” said Furhang, a Bulls Head resident, who was born in Manhattan.

She is grateful to Dr. Alonso who “has been helping me understand the components necessary to drive forward a research project and has very generously spent time guiding me through my honors thesis.”

“I was lucky that Rachel chose my lab to work in. From the beginning I noticed that Rachel is a special student. While we were discussing the research project, she not only was able to follow the research objectives, but she was jumping ahead and asking questions on how to answer unsolved problems. She designed her research actively. Not too many students have that capacity that requires another level of abstraction. Rachel is making excellent progress, and I am sure she will leave us with more pieces to build our proposed mechanism of neuronal disruption in Alzheimer disease,” noted Dr. Alonso.

In addition to her busy academic life, Furhang is also a note-taker for the Center for Student Accessibility, has served as Vice President of the Pre-Medical Pre-PA club, and was a part of the CUNY Service Corps, placed at the Institute for Basic Research.

Rachel Furhang in Zion National Park, Utah.

Furhang studied in Hong Kong in fall 2015, tutoring students in English and Biology, learning Mandarin Chinese, and taking in the local culture. She calls the experience “one of the most memorable parts” of her time as an undergraduate.

“Studying abroad was fun, but it also taught me many skills about learning across different cultures,” said the student, who also spent a summer at the Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine studying the PTEN protein, which is implicated in cancer and autism.

As a student in Charles Liu, PhD’s, Science and Technology seminar, Furhang continued to impress with her broad interests and pursuits.

“Did you know that Rachel’s also a talented painter and digital artist?” asks Dr. Liu, Director of the Verrazano School and Macaulay Honors College. “Whether it’s science, art, culture, or anything else, Rachel is unafraid to push limits and bend boundaries – and we in the CSI community are all enriched by her uplifting audacity.”

Furhang plans to pursue an MD and PhD dual degree and become a medical scientist, focusing on the fields of neurodegenerative diseases, bacterial evolution, and the genetics behind both. Naturally, her plans include obtaining that black belt in jiu jitsu.

 

 

 

Michelle Kushnir ’17: Student Success On and Off the Court

Michelle Kushnir playing a doubles match during the CUNYAC Women's Tennis Championships in 2015.

As a star athlete, tech expert, and Macaulay Honors College (MHC) student, Michelle Kushnir ’17 may appear to have a full college plate. However, being captain of the College of Staten Island (CSI) Women’s Tennis Team, winning the 2015 CUNYAC Sportsmanship Player of the Year Award, and conducting data visualization research are just a few of this Computer Science major’s accomplishments.

Kushnir, who is minoring in Business and Mathematics and maintaining a 3.7 GPA, was also a member of the Emerging Leaders Program (ELP), and has studied abroad and interned extensively.

The 21-year-old held a research assistant position for the CUNY High-Performance Computing Center, working with Michael Kress, PhD; Jonathan Peters, PhD; and Nora Santiago on analyzing public data such as taxicab and land use data. She is currently a research assistant for the Engineering Science and Physics Department, working with Dwight Richards, PhD, on improving the audience experience at cyber defense competitions using data visualization.

With the ELP, Kushnir volunteered at food drives for Project Hospitality and the CSI Food Pantry. She also traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark, taking a course in Danish Greenspace, and recently studied Japanese business and culture in Tokyo, Japan.

The Eltingville resident’s internship experience includes positions at Princeton SciTech as a Website developer, and at UBS as a Technical Business Analyst in the Business Intelligence Department, where she will return to this summer.

Michelle Kushnir studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark.

“Take every opportunity handed to you. Even if it doesn’t fit exactly what you want to do, take it, because you’ll never know who you’ll meet or where that opportunity will take you next, “commented Kushnir, who graduated from Tottenville High School, where she was a student in the Classics Institute.

Born in Brooklyn, Kushnir plans to pursue a graduate degree in Information Systems Management, with concentrations in Business Intelligence and Data Analytics.

“Students in college should always explore a wide range of interests; Michelle has explored – and excelled – about as widely as anyone possibly can! She’s intensely driven to succeed in everything she does – while at the same time being fun-loving, deeply thoughtful, generous, and kind.  It has been a privilege to have her as a student in my class and as a member of the CSI community,” said Charles Liu, PhD, Director of MHC and the Verrazano School. Kushnir was a student in Dr. Liu’s HON 223 seminar, “Science and Technology in New York.”

“I am grateful to the Macaulay Honors College staff, specifically Lisa French, Anita Romano, and Dr. Charles Liu who all provided so much guidance for me throughout my four years at CSI. They truly care about their students, and were there for me whenever I needed their help,” said Kushnir.

Verdict is In: James Raio ’17 Heading to Law School

James Raio poses next to a police car by the Coliseum on his trip to Italy.

Ever since Career Day at PS 53, James Raio ‘17 has wanted to be an attorney. In fall 2017, the College of Staten Island (CSI) Macaulay Honors College (MHC) student will be closer to that dream as he enters Fordham Law School on a partial scholarship.

Maintaining a 3.9 GPA, the Political Science major, minoring in Legal Studies and Economics, advises his peers to “work hard because good grades will pay off later, whether you are applying to grad school or searching for employment!”

The Staten Island Technical High School graduate has interned at the Richmond County District Attorney’s Office, an experience that certainly solidified the budding prosecutor’s career plans.

“It was really interesting and taught me a lot about the field. I was able to work closely with attorneys and talk to them about law school and also spoke with law enforcement officials about the criminal justice process,” noted Raio, age 21.

The Bay Terrace resident also works as a pharmaceutical technician and says that time management has been key for him.

“I have always been good about staying on top of deadlines and getting things done early. You can’t wait until the last minute,” urges Raio, who is currently completing his senior thesis, early, of course. His thesis is focused on President Donald Trump and the 2016 election.

James Raio at his high school prom.

“James has been a model student. He already has certain important lawyerly virtues. The words that most comes to mind when I think about James are ‘calm,’ ‘steady,’ ‘methodical,’ and ‘meticulous.’ I’ve always found him to be responsible and thoughtful. It has been a pleasure to have him in my classes and to witnesses his many successes,” commented Michael Paris, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and Global Affairs. Dr. Paris worked with Raio on his law school applications and supervised his senior thesis.

A native of Staten Island, Raio also studied abroad in Florence, Italy in summer 2015. There, he studied sculpture and was also able to enjoy excursions such as horseback riding in Tuscany and visiting a Ferrari factory. His study abroad program was funded by his MHC Opportunities Fund.

“James is the kind of person I want in my corner, standing up for what’s right when the chips are down.  We are all so proud to have him here at CSI.  However he chooses to participate in our legal system, he will succeed – and he will make the world a better place for us all,” noted Charles Liu, PhD, Director of MHC and the Verrazano School.

Committing himself to advanced programs at both Staten Island Technical High School and now MHC, Raio is glad to have experienced “rigorous programs that challenged me to excel in difficult coursework. It really makes a difference to work and learn beside other high-achieving students.”

At Fordham, Raio plans to pursue corporate or criminal law.