CSI Alumnus Vincent Wong ’15 Attending Upstate Medical University

Vincent Wong at an Americorps Your Park! Your Health! event.

Saving the world may very well be on Vincent Wong’s future agenda. The 23-year-old Macaulay Honors College (MHC) alumnus achieved a tremendous amount in his four years at the College of Staten Island, which speaks both to his work ethic and thrill for adventure. The recipient of several scholarships and awards, including The Jack Nash Scholarship (2014) and Psychology Departmental Award (2015), Wong is currently a medical student at Upstate Medical University at Syracuse, where he’ll be starting his clinical rotations this summer, with an interest in family medicine.

During his time on campus, the Psychology major and former club vice president was heavily involved with Project Reach, a peer-mentoring program for college students with learning disabilities. As a student researcher, he worked closely with Kristen Gillespie-Lynch, PhD, developing a thesis on the impact of mentoring on the mentors and their success rates. Reflecting on his time with Dr. Gillespie-Lynch, Wong states,

“She is one of the nicest people I know. She allowed me to conduct research with her for two and a half years and guided me every step of the way. She encouraged me to enter various conferences to present my research, which was one of the best-presented undergraduate research at the conferences.”

The admiration is mutual as Dr. Gillespie notes, “Vincent was a huge asset to the mentorship program. He was an exceptional mentor for several students, including a student with a disability whom he inspired to become a mentor himself. His sense of humor and natural exuberance created joy in the students he worked with.”

In addition to his work on campus, the Brooklyn Technical High School graduate, also participated in several extracurricular activities.

Wong was a member of the CUNY Service Corps program, which allowed him to work at the Prospect Park Zoo. Some of his responsibilities included managing the zoo database and helping the staff coordinate special events.

Of his many activities, one program Wong found to be transformative was AmeriCorps. After hearing about the opportunity at the Macaulay job fair in Manhattan, Wong knew that AmeriCorps would be an enriching and life-changing experience for the aspiring doctor. AmeriCorps is a civil society program supported by the U.S. government, foundations, corporations, and other donors engaging adults in public service work with a goal of “helping others and meeting critical needs in the community.”

In addition to the special bond he shared with Sheridan, Wong experienced nature in a unique way. He states, “It opened an entirely new world that was unknown to me before. I always thought of nature being far away and having to transverse hundreds of miles to find a small quiet place to enjoy. However, Gateway National Park is only 45 minutes away on bike. Not only was it super close, it was also a hidden gem.”

Vincent Wong demonstrating proper technique at the Americorps event.

During this time, Vincent learned how to kayak and rescue other kayakers, and paddled to an uninhabited island off the coast of Brooklyn where a pack of horseshoe crabs greeted him and his peers.

Another memory the medical student holds fondly was traveling to Sandy Hook Beach to camp overnight. He recounts, “I remember sitting by the fire with the vivid night sky over my head. The next morning was a marine demonstration. Another counselor and I walked along the shore with a huge net. The captured animals were quickly returned to the ocean after we showed the public all the various species of small fishes that lived in these waters. Overall, this experience taught me to enjoy nature just a little bit more.”

Although it may seem as if he has conquered the world on his own, the current medical school student and Syracuse resident credits his success to a number of individuals including Charles Liu, Lisa French, and the entire Macaulay Honors community.

Wong has also been an asset to the MHC community, “We are very proud of Vincent Wong. He is a genuine, kind, and humble person whose wit and intelligence will help to make him a wonderful doctor one day,” said Lisa French, Associate Director of the Macaulay Honors College at CSI. “Jovial, joyful, and inspiring—a pleasure to have as a student—that’s what comes to mind when I think of Vincent!” adds Charles Liu, Macaulay at CSI’s faculty director.

Wong encourages fellow students to cultivate these kinds of relationships, which made him feel like “family,” as he states, “Students should take the time out to develop and nurture a relationship between a professor or staff member. This relationship will help them grow as a student and as an individual.”

 

CSI Alumnus Keegan Fernandes Receives Jonas Salk Scholarship

Keegan Fernandes is the recipient of a Jonas Salk Scholarship.

College of Staten Island (CSI) alumnus Keegan Fernandes ’15, ’16, ‘17 has won a Jonas Salk Scholarship.

Through the Scholarship, in fall 2017, Fernandes will attend the Jerry M. Wallace School of Osteopathic Medicine at Campbell University in North Carolina, where in addition to pursuing a Doctor of Osteopathy degree, he will also conduct research relating to epileptic seizures and type II diabetes.

“I am so humbled and want to express my deepest gratitude for being awarded the Jonas Salk Scholarship. This prestigious award will allow me to pursue my dreams and for that I cannot thank the Jonas Salk committee enough,” said Fernandes.

A veteran of the U.S. Army, Fernandes has received a Purple Heart Medal and Ribbons denoting Army Commendation, Army Service, NATO Service, and Global War on Terrorism.

“Having spent seven years in the military, retuning to civilian life was difficult. I was grateful to find a home with the Veteran Support office where Laura Scazzafavo helped me focus on reaching the dream of becoming a doctor,” remembers Fernandes, who graduated with both a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology in 2015 and went on to complete a Master of Science in Biotechnology at CSI in spring 2016. The graduate student is slated to receive a second Master of Science in Neuroscience and Developmental Disabilities in spring 2017.

While in the Army, Fernandes served as the lead medic for his platoon and found his inspiration to become a physician after saving the life of his friend (and fellow soldier) in Afghanistan, who was severely injured by an improvised explosive device.

At CSI, Fernandes instructed tenth grade high school students in neuroscience and mathematics through the CSTEP Program, received honors in his major and served as a Veteran Support Specialist and a member of the Armed Forces Club and the Pre-Medical Society at CSI.

As an undergraduate, Fernandes worked in a laboratory with Dan McCloskey, PhD, examining the paradoxical lack of brain Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor in the African Naked Mole-Rat.  According to Dr. McCloskey, “He helped develop first neuronal cell culture studies on this species and his research revealed that this unusual mammal uses alternative strategies to grow new blood vessels in the brain, which allows them to handle low oxygen environments in their native habitat. This work informs us of new strategies for human vascular growth to counteract stroke and heart disease.”

“Academically, the professors that I have crossed paths with saw my truest potential even when I couldn’t see it in myself. Having the backing that was offered at CSI has played a huge role in receiving this award,” said the student, who in particular recalls the support of Bill L’Amoreaux, PhD; Abdeslem El Idrissi, PhD; and Dr. McCloskey.

“Without their belief in me I would not be finishing my degree. Their mentorship held me up when life was too much, and here is the proof that anything is possible,” he said.

Dr. McCloskey, who serves as the student’s research mentor and pre-med advisor, added that, “Keegan has propelled himself toward this award. I have been fortunate to work with truly great students here at CSI, including previous Salk Scholarship Awardees, but I have never met a student like Keegan. I have no doubt that he will go on and continue to do amazing things.”

“CSI is very proud of Keegan for his academic achievements as well as his brave service to our country. He is to be commended for his involvement in research throughout his academic program here. There is no doubt that the outstanding mentorship by Dr. McCloskey provided a major boost toward his securing this great recognition,” noted Gary Reichard, PhD, CSI Provost.

The hard-working student and soldier believes, “No matter how long or tough the road is, if you stay with it and you really want it, you will achieve it. This journey is not over. It is the stepping stone to the future I am now certain of, given every challenge I have conquered.”

 

History of Salk Scholarships recipients

 

2017

Keegan Fernandes ’15, ’16, ‘17

 

2015

Anton Mararenko ’15

 

2014

Christina Vicidomini ’13

 

2012

Eric Rios-Doria

 

 

CSI Alumna Soaring to New Heights: Lucinda Zawadzki ’15 Attending University of Oxford on Full Scholarship

Lucinda Zawadzki will attend the University of Oxford in the fall.

Macaulay Honors College (MHC) alumna, Lucinda Zawadzki ’15 has received a full scholarship to the University of Oxford to pursue a PhD in Zoology.

Through the Oxford-Christ Church-Natural Motion Graduate Scholarship, Zawadzki will study full time at the University from October 2017 to September 2020 with all tuition, college fees, and living costs covered.

“I am extremely excited to attend the University of Oxford for my graduate studies. After finding my passion studying birds, I knew that I wanted to continue my studies in graduate school, but I never imagined being able to do so at such an amazing institution. This opportunity is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I cannot wait to begin my studies in the fall,” said Zawadzki, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science with honors in Biology, minoring in Biochemistry and Chemistry, and was the Class of 2015 Salutatorian and recipient of multiple scholarships while at CSI.

At the University of Oxford, Zawadzki plans to study vagrancy in birds as an indicator of climate change by conducting research with the Oxford Navigation Group.

Zawadzki plans to study Zoology.

“Through use of existing databases and fieldwork, I will be studying how vagrancy drives movement in bird populations, and whether vagrancy is due to misorientation or an adaptation. To date, no such analysis has been performed. This work is important in terms of climate change, as many organisms will need to adapt to changing conditions through dispersal,” Zawadzki said.

She was also selected as a finalist in the very prestigious British Marshall Scholarship, a first for CSI in this particular scholarship competition. She has also received an honorable mention from the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and two honorable mentions from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program.

Zawadzki reflects that, “I have learned that if you have a dream, never give up. I knew this already from college, when I faced the dilemma of switching majors and changing research directions after I discovered my love of biology… challenges do not end in school; they continue after you graduate. However, no matter what roadblock may stand in your way, if you have a goal, and you work really hard, you will achieve it. From senior year of college I knew that I wanted to study birds for a living, and now I have a real path to that dream. I worked hard to get here, and now, day by day, I am slowly making my dream a reality. And I could not be happier.”

Read more about Zawadzki on CSI Today.com.

 

CSI Alumna Viktoriya Morozova ’15 to Speak at The New York Academy of Sciences

College of Staten Island (CSI) alumna Viktoriya Morozova ’15 has been asked to speak at The New York Academy of Sciences. The event, “Targeting Tau in Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders,” on March 13, is presented by the Brain Dysfunction Discussion Group.

Morozova is a student in the Master’s Program in the Center for Developmental Neuroscience at CSI. She received a Bachelor of Science in Biology and, in 2013, joined the lab of Alejandra Alonso, PhD, studying the mechanism of neuronal loss in Alzheimer’s disease as a function of tau expression. Morozova has been awarded first place in the Graduate Conference on Research and Scholarship. Her current focus in the lab is to analyze the prion-like propagation of tau in culture and in a mouse model of tauopathy.

For more information, visit The New York Academy of Sciences Web site.

 

 

Richard Veit and CSI Alumna Featured in Scientific American

College of Staten Island (CSI) Professor Richard Veit and CSI alumna Lucinda Zawadzki ’15 were referenced in a recent article in Scientific American. In the article “Vagrant Birds May Portend Species Distribution in Climate-Changed World,” Veit comments that the notion that all vagrants are “messed up, and unable to navigate,” has led people to ignore their potential importance in understanding animal distributions and how they change over time.

Read the full story in Scientific American.

 

Win-Win for CSI and Staten Island University Hospital: CSI Students Participate in Bell Hop Program

Alan Wood '15 volunteering at SIUH

Over the course of the past year, College of Staten Island (CSI) graduate student Alan Wood ‘15 has donated almost 200 hours of his time to Staten Island University Hospital (SIUH) North. Recognized among college volunteers for “going above and beyond in his volunteer duties,” the Master of Science in Neuroscience and Developmental Disorders candidate is a participant in the CSI Bell Hop/Patient Liaison Program at the Hospital’s Neurology unit.

“I am participating in this program because it opens up a  door to reach out to others in need, explore potentials, and be introduced to the practical realities of the medical field and hospital life,” said Wood, noting that it is “an excellent way to give back to the community.”

Through the volunteer program, sponsored by CSI, under the supervision of the Patient Care Unit Manager or Nurse Manager of each unit, the volunteer acts as a liaison between the patient, family members, and staff.  The liaison reinforces the strategies of the SIUH Service Excellence Program as well as the Culture of Care program and serves as a conduit through which patients, family members, visitors, and other customers are able to seek assistance by communicating unmet needs.

Bell Hops work closely with staff, managers, and physicians in order to improve customer satisfaction. Other duties include preparing patients for meals, assisting with feeding under the supervision of primary nurse, and assisting in transporting or escorting patients who are being discharged to the lobby.

“The Bell Hop/Patient Liaison program was created to provide college students, who are interested in healthcare, with access and exposure to the healthcare setting, to healthcare professionals, as well as to patients. It’s the best of both worlds and it’s a win-win for SIUH, the students, and our patients,” commented SIUH Manager of Volunteer Services Toni Arcamone.

CSI’s Career Center has been an integral part in this successful partnership between the College and SIUH. Director Caryl Watkins is impressed with the interest that the Program has generated among CSI students, noting that more than 65% of program participants are enrolled CSI students. Other participants include students from other CUNY schools and Wagner College.

“This volunteer internship program provides a wonderful opportunity for our students who are interested in the healthcare field, allowing them to work alongside medical professionals in a hospital setting,” commented Watkins.

Kristi Nielson, Career Assistant at the Center, added that the Program “provides students with a professional experience that links academic coursework to the disciplines that a student may want to pursue for a career.”

According to Arcamone, in 2014, SIUH welcomed 83 total Bell Hops, with 58 being CSI students. In 2015, SIUH welcomed 91 bell hops, with 63 being CSI students. An additional 35 CSI students have started the application process.

The initiative is a rotational program that allows volunteers to work with doctors, nurses, patients, and families in many units including Outpatient Care, Oncology, Critical Care, and Medical/Surgical units. Junior- and senior-level students in the sciences are encouraged to participate, particularly those seeking résumé-building skills that will make their medical and dental school applications more competitive and for those seeking fellowships or scholarships that require previous volunteer work or experience in the health field.

Wood, who received his undergraduate degree at CSI, majoring in Biology and minoring in Italian, expects to graduate from the Master’s program in May 2017. Wood reflects, “Throughout my involvement in this program, I am learning how to be actively engaged in making a difference in the lives of many people, networking skills, and how to exercise personal responsibility in what I have to do. There are many avenues where this program may lead depending on availability, location of service, personal talents, and more; and freedom to lend a hand increases as personal responsibility is demonstrated.”

 

Verrazano Alumna Accepted to Columbia University

Erica Golin '15 in Fort Myers attending Jacque Fresco’s Centennial Celebration, a conference on resource-based economy.

“What can I do today that will make me proud in the future?”

Erica Golin, Class of ’15, ponders that question daily, a mantra that has certainly served her well as the 23-year-old Verrazano School alumna has been accepted to the Columbia School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. She will begin pursuing a Master’s of Public Administration starting in the summer.

Golin, who was a Psychology major and Sociology and Anthropology minor, currently works in the Graduate Recruitment and Admissions Office at the College of Staten Island.

While a student, she was involved in a wide variety of activities and organizations on campus, many that eventually allowed her to realize her career goals.

“It was at CSI that I found my passion for environmental issues. While I always cared about the environment, I thought I wanted to be a psychologist or psychology professor,” noted Golin, adding that her Cultural Anthropology class with City College Professor Lindsay Parme “started me on the path of ‘waking up,’ so to speak.”

Several other courses, a relevant documentary, and her membership with the CUNY Service Corps all solidified her passion about the issues facing the environment.

A General Douglas A. MacArthur High School graduate, Golin was on the CSI Student Government, Campus Activities Board, and in the Emerging Leaders Program. She also enjoyed assisting at CSI New Student Orientation and giving campus tours as a CSI Ambassador.

She is thankful to “the entire staff of Student Life, The Verrazano School, Career and Scholarship, and Recruitment and Admissions who were enormously helpful in validating my potential and encouraging me to pursue my goals.”

“I could not have had these opportunities if it weren’t for CSI!” she exclaimed.

The Westerleigh resident is the recipient of a CSI Scholarship, a Departmental Scholarship in Psychology, and a Dolphin Award for Outstanding Service and Contribution by a Currently Enrolled Student (2015).

A Brooklyn native, Golin states that her “ultimate goal is to start an institute where people can learn about resource-based economy, which offers solutions to problems such as climate change.”

By Sara Paul

 

 

Macaulay Honors Graduate Studying Ecology

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.