CSI Star shines in PhD program at Boston University

Daniel Feldman, PhD program in Astronomy, Boston University.

It was clear from his Commencement address that 2012 CSI Salutatorian Daniel Feldman was on the correct track, headed for success in whatever field he chose. During the address, which impressed so much that CSI President Dr. William J. Fritz quoted it during his 2013 Commencement address, Feldman discussed the “Imposter Syndrome.” A term coined by Pauline and Suzanne Imes in 1978, it refers to a phenomenon in which people are unable to believe that they deserve the success they achieve. “Many successful people suffer from this syndrome, many of them most likely in attendance at the Honors Convocation,” he told the attendees. “But they should all be viewing the awards ceremony as proof that you are not an imposter…your attendance here is a testament to your success.” Back then, more than two years ago, it was clear that Feldman was a CSI success story.

Today, Feldman has not failed to live up to these lofty expectations. He is currently in his third year at Boston University working toward a PhD in Astrophysics, studying T-Tauri stars, which are in a stage where they are not yet hot enough to fuse hydrogen in their cores and are surrounded by a disk of gas and dust. Feldman discussed his work with the stars, saying “I’m interested in understanding the evolution of the disk’s structure—that is, how dust grains can grow in size by sticking together and eventually, due to increased weight, “settle” to the middle or midplane of the disk, possibly to form planets,” he explained. He went on to discuss the way the research team to which he belongs runs “computer models of how T-Tauri star systems with different properties will look to our telescopes. We can compare them with real observations to infer which properties match those of the stellar system in question. So, for example, how settled is the disk around this star, does it have a gap or hole, etc.?”

This current research will periodically bring him to Arizona, where he will participate in a Boston University collaboration with the Discovery Channel Telescope that will allow him to study the accretion rates of gas that falls onto the star’s surface from the disk. He will be using the data he collects along with previously defined models to determine the properties of the stellar systems he is studying.

The work he is currently performing and his experience as an undergraduate at CSI have prepared him for life beyond academia, once that day comes. Although he still has aspirations to one day become a professor, he is also mindful of other opportunities that may be available to him. Ideally, whatever the choice, he would like to return to New York. “Boston is a very different city from New York—very young.”

As for how he got his start studying astronomy, Feldman claims that he has “always been interested in science—especially astronomy.” It was when he first started out as an undergraduate at CSI and began working with Dr. Charles Liu at the American Museum of Natural History where he began to believe that studying science was the correct course. He also credits Prof. Irving Robbins, Associate Professor of Engineering Science and Physics, and Director of the CSI Astrophysical Observatory, and Dr. Emily Rice, Assistant Professor of Engineering Science and Physics, with furthering his scientific aspirations.

Dr. Rice, one of his mentors at CSI, called Feldman an “honestly curious student” who was very easy going and just wanted to naturally study and understand. “He was a very versatile student—quick to learn new things.” This is proven by his other love, musical theater. He says that whenever he gets the opportunity, he assists at the Saint Clare Musical Theater in Staten Island. While most people would wonder how a scientist could also have musical talents, Feldman says that “art and science are not as different as you would think. They both require study and for you to think critically about the work you are performing.” He called it “similar to analyzing a problem in physics.”

Dr. Rice also stressed that he is a very “self-deprecating person—almost to a fault” and explained that Feldman wrote a blog as an undergraduate explaining scientific matters to his non-science-major classmates. She also wanted to talk about him passing his PhD qualifying exam during his first year at BU—something that she calls “not very common.”

Feldman also stressed how important it was for him and for other students to participate in STEM field studies, even if they are not training to become scientists or researchers. “I think the real importance is more for educating those who do not want to be involved in the STEM fields,” he explained. “Many issues in our country require some base level of scientific knowledge, for example, a politician examining climate change.”

Dr. Rice concurred, “The majority of scientific research is paid for by taxpayers,” explaining why it is worth it for even non-scientists to have at least basic training in STEM fields. She is also passionate about leveling the playing field for women and other traditionally underrepresented segments of our community to have a stronger voice in the scientific community.

Both Feldman and Dr. Rice are passionate about the role that science can have in our lives and they believe that science is not some “esoteric, intractable thing but that, in fact, the opposite is true. We are born curious” said Dr. Rice. “Our understanding of the universe is growing every day and it shouldn’t take an astrophysicist to appreciate that.”

Caroline Arout goes on to Yale

College of Staten Island alumna Caroline Arout has been accepted for a post-doctoral position with Yale University beginning the summer of 2014.

When Arout began her studies as an undergraduate at CSI in 2003, she claims that she had no intention of moving on to post-graduate work, let alone earning a PhD. She first considered business coursework and later switched to nursing, and while she enjoyed her studies and performed well, she admits that something was missing. “I felt like I was looking to get a degree just for the sake of it, and that if I continued with that mindset, I wouldn’t be happy in the long run. I enjoyed Psychology, so I decided to commit to an education in a field I knew I’d be happy in.”

Arout eventually changed her major to Psychology.

In 2006, she was encouraged by CSI Professor and Chair of the Psychology Department, Dr. John Lawrence, to work in the neuropsychology-focused lab of Dr. Benjamin Kest. After that, the rest came easily.

“I loved neuroscience, I enjoyed working with Dr. Kest and found his work in opioid hyperalgesia (the increased pain sensitivity that results from opioid treatment) fascinating, so that helped make up my mind.” She called working with Dr. Kest “phenomenal” and credits him with sparking her love for neuroscience. “He taught me how to be an independent, confident researcher, to never question myself.”

After finishing her senior year at CSI working in Dr. Kest’s lab and graduating in 2007, Arout applied for and was accepted to Queens College’s General Psychology Master’s program. It was then that she and Dr. Kest started collaborating with CSI Associate Professor of Psychology, Dr. Dan McCloskey, working on her first independent project—researching the molecular basis of morphine hyperalgesia. She continued on to pursue a PhD in Neuropsychology from The City University of New York’s Graduate Center.

“We studied the way morphine works in our brain—the way it affects pain processing,” she said, explaining her second research project that would eventually become her PhD dissertation. “I wanted to find out how receptors in the brain and spinal cord contribute to morphine hyperalgesia.”

After receiving her PhD, Caroline focused her attention on teaching her experimental Psychology 330 class at the College of Staten Island, and began searching for possible post-doctoral positions when she noticed an opportunity at Yale, sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. She wanted to continue “studying drugs of abuse, how they affect the brain,” she said of the motivations behind her search. “The brain is so mysterious,” she continued. “There is so much we don’t know about it—it’s this bundle of cells that determines every aspect of your life. I am fascinated by how drugs can change it.”

After a short wait, Arout soon found out that she was chosen to work at Yale’s Veteran’s Hospital campus in West Haven, Connecticut this summer. There, she will contribute to clinical trials of treatments for nicotine and alcohol abuse, and she hopes to use her opiate expertise to be able to focus on treatments for veterans who are suffering from chronic pain.

She admitted that she was a little nervous about applying to an Ivy League university. “When I applied, I was intimidated because it was Yale, but it felt really good to find out that they were as excited about me working there as I was—I felt truly validated.”

The advice that she would like to impart on future students is to “never sacrifice your dreams in order to keep up with everyone else’s. What I do matters—it was worth the extra time and effort. CSI and CUNY have some of the best and brightest students and faculty around, there is no reason we shouldn’t do what makes us happy.”


Meet Elizabeth Krawczun; 2014 Salutatorian and Honors Convocation Speaker

College of Staten Island Class of 2014 Salutatorian Elizabeth Krawczun

Elizabeth Krawczun  is a Verrazano School student who will receive a Bachelor’s degree in Epidemiology. She has served as a volunteer at the South Beach Psychiatric Center and performed independent research, working on data collection within the infection control department.  In January 2013, she studied abroad through Brooklyn College in a global health program in rural India, and last January, she traveled through the Macaulay Honors College to the Dominican Republic to study health and water sustainability. In Summer 2013, she participated in the CUNY Summer Undergraduate Research Program working under Prof. Heidi Jones, Hunter School of Public Health, studying clinical abortion methods and treatment of female patients across the U.S. and Canada. She has served as President of the CSI Chapter of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and was a member of the Emerging Leaders program.

Elizabeth has been accepted into two graduate programs in the UK this fall, and will make her final decision to study Epidemiology at Imperial College London or Medical Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh.

More about Elizabeth:

• CUNY Baccalaureate for Unique and Interdisciplinary Studies: Epidemiology
• B.A. anticipated June 2014
• CUNY Baccalaureate Thomas W. Smith Academic Fellowship (Fall 2012–)
• CSI-2014 Verrazano Senior Convocation Class Speaker (May 2014)
• CSI- Eta Lambda Chapter of Phi Beta Delta (May 2014)
• CUNY-Japan Kakehashi Program (May 2013)
• President, National Society of Collegiate Scholars,CSI Chapter (May 2013–)
• CSI-Verrazano Honors Program (Fall 2011–)
• CSI-Verrazano Study Abroad Scholarship (January 2013)
• CSI-Emerging Leaders Program (Fall 2012–Spring 2013)
• CSI-STEAM Scholarship (Fall 2011)
• Dean’s List (2011-2013)

Brown University awaits…

Kanika Khanna '13

Brown University awaits the College of Staten Island’s Kanika Khanna ’13, who has gained acceptance to the Taubman Center for Public Policy.

“I’m very excited about going to Brown,” said the Brooklyn-born Political Science major, recently selected to participate in Harvard University’s Latino Leadership Initiative at the Kennedy School of Government, and a guiding force behind mentoring Latino students at John Jay College. Fueled by her interest in journal¬ism, Kanika also started the Macaulay Messenger, a prize-winning electronic newsletter and website that took second place in the 2012 National Collegiate Honors Council’s contest for best student-run e-newsletter.

Kanika began problem-solving for New York while still an undergrad, working to provide supportive housing to the homeless through A. Larovere Consulting, where she’s been employed for the last two years. In addition to a roof over one’s head, the group arranges job training, edu¬cation, counseling, health care and other services. “Mentally ill adults need help making the transition to lead a stable life,” she remarks. “And the places where we build housing need services. There are neighborhoods that don’t even have a supermarket to go to, and they don’t have effective small businesses.” The group delivers an assortment of resources, including education. “Education is so transformative,” notes Kanika, who has witnessed how homeless people’s lives improve when they gain access to classes and teachers. “If you have it in places that are overlooked, it would be so much better.” Increasing access to education in underserved areas is a passion, and residents of New York are already benefiting from Kanika’s remarkable dedication.

“From exploring the Renaissance in Florence to immersing myself in the realm of public policy, my experience as a Macaulay Honors student has offered me more opportunities that I could have imagined,” added Kanika. “Before Macaulay, I didn’t know I would find a community of students and faculty that fostered my personal growth and success so close to home.”

PricewaterhouseCoopers Internship Bolsters Career Experience While Helping Others

Macaulay Honors College student Zach Crespi just completed an internship at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Zach Crespi, a CSI triple major in Accounting, Economics, and Finance, as well as a Macaulay Honors College student who is planning to graduate next year, just completed an internship that was fulfilling on a number of levels—strengthening his career experience, but also giving him the opportunity to make the world a better place.

This past summer, he interned with PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP (PwC) in their Internal Audit practice in New York City. According to Crespi, “PwC is the number-one professional services firm in the world, and the largest of the ‘Big Four’ accounting firms measured by 2012 revenues, employing around 180,000 employees in 776 cities across 159 countries.”

On a professional level, Crespi notes that he “was exposed to both financial services and non-financial services clients based in Manhattan. Throughout my eight-week tenure, I assisted Associates and Senior Associates with daily tasks, such as formatting and organizing audit documents, and performing controls testing. After learning the functions and steps of the audit process, I was able to structure scope memos and work plans for specific internal audit reviews.”

His internship wasn’t all about personal development, however. “My internship provided me with the opportunity to participate in PwC’s corporate responsibility program named Project Belize,” he explains. “A financial literacy program with its roots in New York City schools, Project Belize provides partners, principals, staff, and interns the ability to help improve upon the social and economic challenges facing the children and adults in Belize City, Belize. Through an extensive three-day financial literacy curriculum, I was able to make an impact on the lives of 20 ten-year-olds by teaching them important lessons about budgeting, financing, and creating a well-rounded business plan. To learn more about this amazing program, visit PwC’s Project Belize Website.”

Looking back on his Macaulay Honors College experience, so far, Crespi says, “As a Macaulay Honors College student, I have been privileged to interact with high-caliber students, staff, and professors. The school has continuously supported and encouraged me to go beyond my limits and achieve strategic milestones, such as landing a lucrative internship with PwC. My experiences with individuals throughout Macaulay has given me the tools I need to be successful in the business world, and allowed me to foster valuable relationships that I will always keep.”

Once he graduates from the Macaulay Honors College at CSI, Crespi plans to study for the CPA examination for a New York license. He will begin his studies next semester after returning from a winter session study abroad trip inSydney,Australia. After that, Crespi anticipates passing the exam during the summer of next year and hopes to begin working for a Big Four accounting firm in fall 2014.

CSI Graduate Justin Giles Prepares for a Life of Law

Recent CSI graduate Justin Giles will be studying Criminal Law at Fordham University this fall.

Justin Giles scored in the 99.7th percentile on his LSAT and is preparing to study Criminal Law at Fordham University this fall after graduating from the College of Staten Island last May.

Giles, who graduated cum laude, is one of many great success stories coming from this year’s crop of CSI graduates, explained that his current success is due in no small part to his PreProBono Fellowship during the summer of 2012. Giles put in about “30 hours a week of work, mixed between classroom meetings with the other fellows and watching explanatory videos at home.”

Justin chose Fordham Law for several reasons, not the least of which is “their dedication to serving their fellow man” which, he said, resonates very strongly with him since, “I am very interested in pursuing a career in public interest law and using my skills to help people.”

He claims that one of his reasons for studying law is that a law degree is “one of the highest academic pursuits and it grants you access to an elite club of people who argue at an incredibly high level.”  He explained that one of the things that interests him most about criminal law is that it “allows two people to view the facts of a case or a situation and create a narrative, each arguing their client’s perception (since there really is no “truth” in an objective sense, merely our perceptions) and through their argument, they come to somewhere in the middle, the closest thing to what “really” happened.”

Justin’s less “selfish” reason, as he put it, is that pursuing a career in law helps to ensure that “the truth truly does come out and it allows me to participate in shaping the outcomes of legal cases, one at a time, so that the outcome is the best for everyone involved.”

CSI will leave him with only fond memories as he said that his experience at the College was “very enjoyable. I always found the other students to be friendly and willing to help whenever I needed to get the information about a class I missed or fill me in on a reading.”

He also credits the faculty, naming Professors Katharine Goodland and Steven Monte of the English Department and Professor and Pre-Law Advisor Michael Paris, for all pushing “me to work harder to really refine my arguments” and who have each “introduced me to some of my favorite writers as well as new and exciting ideas.”

A Staten Island native who went to Tottenville High School, Justin believes that his background had a great deal in effecting his decision to study law to help others. “My mother and father are both firm believers in helping people whenever you can,” he said about his upbringing. “That attitude was instilled in me in a big way and is why I want to help the people who need it most.”

[video] Meet Evelyn Okeke – 2013 Co-Valedictorian

Evelyn Okeke has been conducting research as a Biology (BS) major with a double minor in Biochemistry and Chemistry at CSI in Dr. Abdeslem El Idrissi’s lab since the summer of 2010, where she worked on a project that led to two publications. She has maintained a 4.0 GPA since she started her undergraduate studies in The Verrazano School Honors Program in 2010.

She has recenlty presented her research at numerous conferences including the 18th International Taurine Meeting in Marrakesh, Morocco. During the summer of 2011, she worked as a research assistant in the Robinson lab at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and last summer, she completed an internship in the department of Protein Science at Merck & Co. Inc.,as well as study abroad on scholarship in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R28o_qFA-wA[/youtube]Evelyn was awarded the prestigious UNCF/Merck fellowship for the academic year 2012/2013 and she received an honorable mention from the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship in 2012.

In the fall 2013, she will be begin her doctoral studies at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. This summer, she will go to the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands to complete a research internship in the Department of Pediatrics with a focus on neuroscience.

Daniel Feldman

College of Staten Island Salutatorian Daniel Feldman plans to begin studying astronomy at Boston University as a PhD student in the fall. He received a BS in Physics as part of the Macaulay Honors College (MHC).

During his undergraduate studies, Feldman has taken part in numerous research projects covering a number of areas, such as asteroid tracking, studying youth indicators in M dwarf stars, examining objects in the Kuiper Belt, using high-resolution near-infrared spectroscopy techniques to help determine the physical properties of brown dwarfs, and even building a radio antenna to track solar flares.

He was selected to participate in the CUNY Summer Undergraduate Research Program (C-SURP) and the NSF Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) Program at Northern Arizona University

Commenting on the opportunities that his CSI education afforded him, he says, “CSI played an integral role in introducing me to the field of astronomy as an undergraduate. As soon as my freshman year, I began talking to and working with CSI Professor Charles Liu at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH)—this initial experience introduced me to the field I would come to love, and put me in a spot to secure future research projects. Through CSI Professor Irving Robbins’s mentorship, I gained research and teaching skills (and a job as an adjunct lab tech for CSI), which will be important in graduate school and beyond. My work with CSI Professor Emily Rice, Hunter Professor Kelle Cruz, and the entire [Brown Dwarf] research group at the AMNH taught me about collaborative science and has placed me in a solid position for future success in astronomy.”

After he completes his degree at Boston University, Feldman has aspirations of becoming a professor at a research institution.