CSI Shines in CSTEP Competition

Monique Johnson and Norhan Sobhi at the CSTEP Conference

Three College of Staten Island (CSI) students and one alumna claimed impressive wins in the New York State Education Department’s (NYSED) 25th Annual Statewide Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP) Student Science Competition. Jemima Kadima ’16, Monique Johnson ’18, Saleh Smadi ’17, and Norhan Sobhi ’17, all participants of the NYSED CSTEP program, were winners in oral and poster presentations.

The CSTEP competition attracts students from all over the state who compete in various categories relating to science and technology. CSI students took home three awards.

Debra Evans, Project Director for CSTEP, commented, “Our CSTEP students are truly amazing; watching their transformation from challenging their fears to witnessing the various levels of growth, is a reward in itself, and I am honored to have a part of their development.”

The students are mentored by Department of Biology Professors Abdeslem El Idrissi, PhD; Alejandra Alonso, PhD; and Nancy Liu-Sullivan.

Saleh Smadi stands beside his poster presentation.

Sobhi, a Verrazano School student, and Johnson, a Macaulay Honors College student, both placed first in the field of medicine in the oral research competition. Their project, “Exploring GBM-Targeting Drug Synergism Using 3D Cell Culture Model System,” took a look at Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM), which is a form of brain cancer that has no known cure and a high mortality rate. They suspected that the signaling pathways that allowed the growth of GBM were the cause of the aggressiveness. Guided by Dr. Sullivan, their research aimed to try to block these signals using “a 3D cell structure system.” They also used two different methods and plan on reporting their findings on tumor growth and signal disruption soon.

Sobhi and Johnson are Medical Technology majors and Dean’s List students. Their findings will potentially help find possible solutions to manage GBM and decrease its high mortality rate.

Smadi placed second in the poster competition in the Biology 2 category. His project “Gestation Exposure to DBP in the Etiology of Autism” looked at the exposure of dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and its role among genes associated with autism. Preliminary findings suggest that “gestational exposure to low doses of DBP causes neuro behavioral abnormalities” as stated in the CSTEP Conference Journal. This abnormality causes a domino effect where the gestation inhibitors malfunction and the result is a developmental delay. Under the supervision of Dr. El Idrissi, Smadi hopes to link these findings from their laboratory test on mice to humans.

Jemima Kadima presenting at the Conference.

Kadima also placed second in the poster competition, but this time in the Biology 1 category. Her project was titled “Investigation of the behavioral effects of Alzheimer-like pseudophosrylated TAU in young mice.” Supervised by Dr. Alonso, the research was aimed at connecting  the reaction between two genes to TAU phosphorylation. These genes affect how severe or early Alzheimer’s can begin to. Currently, there have been no distinct differences between the genes. According to Kadima’s report in the CSTEP Conference Journal,  her research can help “lead to new treatments, which will aim to prevent or reduce the chances of an individual developing Alzheimer’s disease.”



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



Keegan Fernandes ’15, ’16, ‘17



Anton Mararenko ’15



Christina Vicidomini ’13



Eric Rios-Doria



CSI Alumni Excelling in Careers and Research

CSI Alumnus Omri Shick '16 has accomplished much after graduating.

Two alumni from the College of Staten Island (CSI) are celebrating their accomplishments in graduate school, work, and research.

Omri Shick ’16 is a graduate student in MSEd in science education. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Chemistry and Teaching in May 2016 and is a full time science teacher at the Lavelle Prep Charter School.

Stephanie Sheehan ’16 is a graduate student in MSEd in mathematics education. She graduated with a BS in Mathematics as a Noyce Scholar and is also a full time math teacher at the Lavelle Prep Charter School.

Shick is the first author of the paper “The Effect of Short Mathematics Instruction in High School Chemistry Course on Student Chemistry Achievement,” which has been accepted as a full paper at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) annual meeting. This paper represents results of his research completed as an undergraduate student at CSI with Irina Lyublinskaya, PhD, Professor of Curriculum and Instruction as his advisor and co-author on the paper. He was also a recipient of a CSI Undergraduate Research Award to complete this study.

The AERA, founded in 1916, is concerned with improving the educational process by encouraging scholarly inquiry related to education and evaluation and by promoting the dissemination and practical application of research results.  AERA’s more than 25,000 members are faculty, researchers, graduate students, and other distinguished professionals with rich and diverse expertise in education research. AERA is international in scope.  Nearly 5% of members, representing over 85 countries, reside outside the United States. Over 28% of AERA members are students—approximately 6,500 graduate students and 600 undergraduate students.

Sheehan completed two research projects in her senior year at CSI. Her first project was completed in the fall 2015 in collaboration with Dr. Lyublinskaya and Mikhail Epshtein, PhD, of St. Petersburg State University in Russia, and focused on the effects of short-term international programs for pre-service STEM teachers on their professional growth as teachers. The paper was accepted as an oral presentation at the 13th International Congress of Mathematics Education and was presented in Hamburg in July 2016. The Congress is held every four years and is under the auspices of the International Commission on Mathematical Instruction. Over 3,000 mathematics educators from all over the world attended the Congress last summer. It is considered one of the most important international events in mathematics education.

In spring 2016, Sheehan received a CSI Undergraduate Research Award to conduct research on effects of virtual and physical manipulatives on retention of mathematics knowledge for students with disabilities. As part of this research, Sheehan developed geometry activities for her students. Based on this work, her group submitted a proposal and have been accepted to present a workshop at the Long Island Mathematics Conference (LIMACON) on March 17, 2017 at SUNY Old Westbury, NY.

Saada Amadu ’16 Forges Ahead to Study Sustainability

Saada Amadu visiting Château de Chambord in France.

As a sustainable environmental continues to be a global concern for many, one College of Staten Island (CSI) graduate is taking action.

Saada Amadu ’16 has received a full scholarship to attend graduate school at Central European University in Budapest, Hungary to study Environmental Sciences and Policy.

“I hope to work at the intersection of environmental science and policy because I believe for us to be able to find methods to sustain ourselves without endangering the environment and livelihood and well-being of future generations to come, international policy must find a way to bridge the gap with the scientific community,” said Amadu, who was an International Studies major with minors in Geography and French.

The Port Richmond High School graduate credits much of her motivation and inspiration for graduate studies to her experiences with research, under the advisement of Associate Professor Roshen Hendrickson, and study abroad opportunities at CSI.

“Saada is a very bright and ambitious woman who has gained access to stimulating opportunities, such as study abroad and graduate school in Europe, through sheer hard work. She has been a great pleasure to work with because she’s intellectually curious and motivated to contribute to her global community,” commented Professor Hendrickson.

Saada Amadu visiting temples in Hong Kong.

For her honors thesis, Amadu wrote about, “policies that led to Senegal importing over 70% of its food and also organizations and individuals working to revive the sector. The interesting part of the research was discovering that structural adjustment programs imposed by the IMF and World Bank were part of the reason for the decline in the Senegal agricultural sector.”

Currently crafting her Master’s thesis, Amadu is studying “the nexus of food, energy, and water security issues. The need for new energy sources and climate change have led some countries to seek alternative sources of energy through biofuels, which are basically energy derived from biomass. First generation biofuels can be derived from crops such as soy or corn while second generation biofuels are derived from by-products such as wood or crops such as jatropha [a flowering plant]. My research is focusing on the fact that biofuels affect both energy and water security of certain communities, in particular rural Ghanaian communities.”

For a truly rich college experience, Amadu strongly urges college students to take advantage of study abroad opportunities as well as the financial support available for those courses.

“Programs can be expensive but with the help of scholarships and grants, the costs might not be too much. I went on two semester-long programs and was still able to graduate in three and a half years. The Center for International Service is particularly helpful when it comes to applying for programs and scholarships,” said Amadu, who traveled to Paris, France in Spring 2015 and Hong Kong in Spring 2016.

The 21-year-old native of Tamale, Ghana was also the recipient of the Gilman Scholarship, Benjamin Franklin Travel Grant, CUNY SIROCS, and CSI Study Abroad Scholarship.

“Saada is an outstanding, dedicated student with a plan to utilize sustainability initiatives to make a difference for underserved communities around the world,” praised Michele Callahan, Fellowship & Scholarship Advisor.

To succeed in college, Amadu urges students to, “Take advantage of opportunities if and when you are presented with them. Also, try to have a faculty mentor because they can be of help when you least expect.”



CSI Alumnus Omri Shick ’16 Showcasing Research

College of Staten Island (CSI) graduate student and alumnus Omri Shick ’16 is the first author of the paper The Effect of Short Mathematics Instruction in High School Chemistry Course on Student Chemistry Achievement. The work  has been accepted as a full paper at the American Educational Research Association (AERA) annual meeting. Shick began his research as an undergraduate student at CSI with Irina Lyublinskaya, PhD as his advisor, completing the study through a CSI Undergraduate Research Award. Dr. Lyublinskaya co-authored the paper as well.

Currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Science Education at CSI, Shick received a Bachelor’s of Science in Chemistry and Teaching, and is a full time science teacher at the Lavelle Prep Charter School.

To learn more about AERA, visit the AERA Web site.

CSI Alumna Stephanie Sheehan ’16 Celebrates Accomplishments

College of Staten Island (CSI) alumna Stephanie Sheehan ’16 has not rested since Commencement. Graduating with a Bachelor’s of Science in Mathematics and a two year Noyce Scholar recipient, Sheehan is a full time math teacher at the Lavelle Prep Charter School and is pursuing a Master’s Degree in Mathematics Education at CSI.

During her senior year at CSI, Sheehan completed two research projects. One was completed in Fall 2015 in collaboration with Irina Lyublinskaya, PhD and Mikhail Epshtein, PhD of St. Petersburg State University in Russia and focused on effect of short-term international program for pre-service STEM teachers on their professional growth as teachers. The paper was accepted as an oral presentation at the 13th International Congress of Mathematics Education and was presented in Hamburg in July 2016. The Congress is considered one of the most important international events in mathematics education.

Also, in Spring 2016, Sheehan received a CSI Undergraduate Research Award to conduct research on the effects of virtual and physical manipulatives on the retention of mathematics knowledge for students with disabilities. Sheehan and Dr. Lyublinskaya will be co-presenting this work at a workshop at the Long Island Mathematics Conference on March 17, 2017 at SUNY Old Westbury, NY.



[video, gallery] “Where’s Danny?” Photo Contest Winners Announced

Mitchell Harris '16 (center) receives his prizes from Danny the Dolphin and CSI President William J. Fritz for his first place finish and "most likes" achievement in the "Where's Danny?" photo competition.

Danny the Dolphin traveled the globe this summer as his photographer fans toted the pocket-sized sea mammal across cities, countries, and continents. Now, for those who participated in the “Where’s Danny?” Photo Contest, the results are in.

The winners of the contest (three winners in four categories and two honorable mentions) are as follows:

Mitchell Harris ’16 won for Best Overall and Most Likes.

He will receive an iPad mini 2 and a $50 Amazon Gift Card. Harris graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Social Work and is currently in the Master’s in Social Work program at Fordham University.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7CpNU7tZPJ0[/youtube] “I have been very involved throughout this whole competition and am ecstatic to have my entries recognized. I had a great time being a part of this creative and expressive contest. Each picture I have taken has a story attached to it. Almost every time I left my home, I had Danny with me, always thinking about where the next picture might appear in my mind and then captured with my camera for others to see. This was a great opportunity to express creativity in a day and age where creativity is not always given a chance to be expressed,” Harris noted.

Rachel Torres ‘16 won for Best Picture and will receive a GoPro Hero Session. Torres graduated from The Verrazano School Honors Program with degrees in Accounting and Economics.

Torres commented, “In the beginning, I did not expect to get so into the Where’s Danny? contest. I thought it would be a cute thing to do because I like social media and taking pictures. Then, I started taking Danny with me everywhere I was going: meetings in the city, out with friends, weekend road trips, and museums. I got so into it that when family and friends saw me digging in my bag, they knew I was digging for Danny. There would be times I would spend a fair amount of time taking pictures then picking out the best ones from the day with a caption to go along. It was a lot of fun participating in the contest.”

Samantha Scali won for Best Caption and will receive a $75 Amazon Gift Card.

Aidan Jimenez ‘20 received an honorable mention. Jimenez is a Business Management major.

Alecia Janeiro received an honorable mention. “I took Danny to seven countries with me over the summer, and it was a really fun experience!” Janeiro commented.

View all #csidannythedolphin entries on Instagram>

All prize winning entries are below:

Best Overall and Most Likes Prize Winner
Best Photo Prize Winner
Best Caption Prize Winner
Honorable Mention
Honorable Mention
Honorable Mention













































CSI Alumna Receives Scholarship to Brooklyn Law School

Naomi Edwards at the 2016 CSI Senior Awards Ceremony

College of Staten Island (CSI) alumna Naomi Edwards ’16 is no stranger to scholarships. The Macaulay Honors College (MHC) graduate has received a scholarship to attend Brooklyn Law School, where she will begin in the fall. While at CSI, the lifelong Livingston resident was also the recipient of both the Macaulay Honors College Scholarship and the CSI Valedictorian/ Salutatorian Scholarship, as she was the Salutatorian of her high school’s graduating class.

Edwards claims that her key to success is to “stay focused, and don’t overload yourself. Successful students know what they’re capable of and try to be self-aware.”

The 22 year old is a graduate of the International Baccalaureate Program at Curtis High School. At CSI, she majored in Political Science with a minor in Geography and maintained an impressive 3.9 GPA. She also participated in the Undergraduate Research Conference in 2015, working closely with Professor Richard Flanagan on a Superstorm Sandy study.

Naomi Edwards enjoying the view of Florence, Italy

“My research studied the link between a neighborhood’s social capital and the amount of time that it took for them to rebound after the storm. It is a topic that was very close to home because my family was displaced from our house for six months as a result of Sandy, which hit during my first semester of college,” noted Edwards, who also studied abroad in Florence, Italy in summer 2015.

With much gratitude to her Macaulay “family” and many of the professors in the Political Science department, Edwards lauds that, “They were and continue to be supportive of me as I navigated undergrad and now post-grad life.”

Director of the Macaulay Honors College and The Verrazano School at CSI Dr. Charles Liu commented, “Naomi embodies the quintessential blend of brilliance, hard work, and social conscience. We all will benefit greatly from her good work in the years to come, and are proud that she is an alumna of the Macaulay Honors College at CSI.”

At Brooklyn Law, Edwards plans to focus on human and civil rights, and said she is “really excited to begin to learn all of the different areas of the law and explore what I can do with it.”

Edwards also volunteers with the Castleton Hill Moravian Church Clothing Distribution in her spare time.

Her advice to college students is simple: “Everyone learns at their own pace and in their own way. Don’t put yourself in a situation where you’re so stressed out that you’re not enjoying yourself. Learning should be fun, and a happy student is a successful student!”