Professor Patty Brooks Receives Faculty Service Award

Dr. Maureen O'Connor and Dr. Patty Brooks

The City University of New York (CUNY) is proud to name Dr. Patty Brooks as the recipient of the first annual “Faculty Service Award” in the Doctoral Program in Psychology.

Professor Brooks, who serves as the Director of the Language Learning Laboratory in the Psychology Department, joined the College of Staten Island faculty in 1997. She is currently the first-ever Deputy Executive Officer of Pedagogy and Professional Development in the Department of Psychology at The Graduate Center, CUNY, a position created to support graduate students outside of their doctoral research in such activities as teaching, and community and college service. Professor Brooks is also a faculty advisor to the Graduate Student Teaching Association (GSTA) of the American Psychological Association and has helped CUNY graduate students gain national recognition for their innovative teaching and engagement of students in CUNY classrooms.

“I was very surprised and honored to be given this award. It has been great fun to work with the doctoral students in psychology at CUNY and support them as they launch their careers as teachers of psychology,” Brooks commented.

The Certificate of Appreciation reads as follows:

“Professor Patty Brooks has played a key professional development leadership role in the Doctoral Program in Psychology. She helped to create, support, and expand our pedagogy development program, oversees and guides our annual Pedagogy Day… serves as the energetic and innovative advisor of the GSTA, and launched our new Psi Chi chapter, using it as a forum to support grant-writing expertise for our students. In recognition of her extraordinary service, the Doctoral Program in Psychology awards this Certificate of Appreciation and the 2015-16 Service Award with tremendous gratitude and respect to Professor Patricia J. Brooks.”

“It has been my honor to work with Professor Brooks over the last eight years, and I am exceptionally grateful to her for the countless hours she has dedicated and ideas she has generated to benefit our students,” commented Maureen O’Connor, JD, PhD, Professor of Psychology, John Jay College, and Executive Officer, Doctoral Program in Psychology at The Graduate Center, CUNY.

Dr. Brooks is currently working with the GSTA leadership to produce an edited book titled How We Teach Now: The GSTA Guide to Student-centered Teaching to be published by the Society for the Teaching of Psychology in 2017.

She has also recently launched PSYCH+Feminism as part of Wikipedia’s Year of Science, an initiative that encourages instructors of psychology courses to incorporate Wikipedia editing assignments in their classes, specifically to address the lack of articles on prominent women in psychology.

Dr. Brooks is preparing for the Seventh Annual Pedagogy Day conference to be held at The Graduate Center, CUNY on October 28, 2016, featuring Professor Janie Wilson, President of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology, as keynote speaker. The conference is open to the entire CUNY community free of charge.


CSI Student with Visual Impairment Looks Forward to Graduation and Graduate School

Cheriyan utilizing assistive technology in the CSA

Although Ben Cheriyan ’16 had trepidations about attending college as a student with a visual impairment, he decided that he would not give in to his fears.

This spring, the College of Staten Island (CSI) Psychology major, who is minoring in Business, celebrates graduation, as well as academic and co-curricular success at the College. Carrying a 3.675 GPA, at this year’s Commencement, Cheriyan will receive a Cum Laude Award, Honors in the Department, the James Ortiz Jr. Memorial Award, and the CSI Auxiliary Corporation Excellence in Psychology.

“As a freshman, I had doubt in myself and feared my visual impairment would hold me back. Through the amazing people I met during my time at CSI, I learned that it was not my vision that was holding me back but fear itself,” said Cheriyan, who received a 2016 CSI Undergraduate Research Stipend for the Spring 2016 semester and served as an ALPHA Club and CSI Student Government member, as well as the treasurer of Psychology Club.

Cheriyan at the CSI Undergraduate Research Conference

The Ralph McKee Career and Technical High School graduate is grateful to the staff at the Center for Student Accessibility (CSA) for supporting his efforts throughout his college career.

“The Center went above and beyond to make sure I received reasonable accommodations and provided me with necessary assistive technology. What I appreciate the most about the CSA is that they took time to know me as an individual and not just as someone who is visually impaired,” commented Cheriyan, a 21 year old from Sunnyside.

Cheriyan also worked closely with Kristen Gillespie-Lynch, Assistant Professor of Psychology at CSI and Coordinator of Project REACH, a program aimed to help students on the autism spectrum succeed in college and beyond. He began work with the Project’s peer mentoring program in Spring 2013 as a mentee, and with Professor Gillespie-Lynch’s guidance and encouragement, he became a mentor the following year. Cheriyan has also been conducting research under Professor Gillespie-Lynch as he works with her on his honors thesis. The topic of his thesis is whether participating in a peer-mentorship intervention improves test anxiety in college students.

“What I appreciate the most about Prof. Gillespie is that she has high standards for me despite being legally blind. In the past, teachers have kind of ‘babied’ me because I was visually impaired. The skills I have learned under Kristen are something I will continue to use as I progress in academia and in the workforce,” said the student, who is planning to apply for a Master’s Degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology for the Spring 2017 semester. Cheriyan’s career goal is to work with individuals with disabilities to provide appropriate job training and accommodations to succeed on the job.



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



“Scientists and engineers rock!” CSI Prof Receives Award at the White House

Dr. Dan McCloskey in The Red Room at the White House

“Scientists and engineers rock!”

Those words, spoken by President Barack Obama, are one of the highlights of Dr. Daniel McCloskey’s trip to the White House.

An Associate Professor of Psychology at the College of Staten Island (CSI), Dr. McCloskey was the recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), granting him the U.S. government’s highest award for scientists and engineers in the early stages of their independent research careers.

“I was very proud to be representing the College because, as our College President has remarked, CSI is a different institution than those of many fellow awardees,” said Dr. McCloskey, adding that he was “extremely proud to represent a public university that has so many opportunities for undergrads.”

Dr. McCloskey was honored for “research combining modeling, neurophysiology, and systems biology/network science that will transform the field of social neuroscience by providing a comprehensive approach towards understanding the role of neuropeptides in complex behavioral systems.” He is currently on sabbatical and conducting research both on and off campus with seven graduate, six undergraduate, and two Staten Island Technical High School students.

While the honor and grandeur of the nation’s capital was truly memorable for the CSI Professor, he reflects that the best part was sharing the experience with his family.

“In science, there is not often opportunity to share these occasions with family as they happen,” commented Dr. McCloskey, who traveled to Washington, DC with his wife, three children, and his parents.

“Meeting the President, who is every bit as personable and funny as he comes across, was an honor, and I will never forget it,” recalls Dr. McCloskey.

President Obama welcomed more than 100 leading scientists and engineers from across the country and around the world to thank them for their work on some of the most challenging and complex issues in science and technology.

Dr. McCloskey spent two days in Washington, DC, meeting with Administration leaders and sharing the insights of his work. Ceremonies took place at the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and finally, the White House.







CSI’s Project REACH Gets National Attention

Professor Kristen Gillespie-Lynch, assistant professor of psychology and director of Project REACH at CSI, was featured in an article about Project REACH on several news Web sites, including NBC News.

The article written by Meredith Kolodner was also published in The Hechinger Report, an online news source that covers inequality in higher education, and The Huffington Post.

Project REACH is a program aimed to help students on the autism spectrum succeed in college and beyond. One of the goals of the program is to assist students with a variety of aspects such as social skills.

“You can talk at people all you want about social skills,” said Kristen Gillespie-Lynch, “but there has to be an element of doing it for people to learn it. … That’s why we have the group classes.”

The full article is posted on the NBC News, The Huffington Post, and The Hechinger Report Web sites.








Macaulay Honors Student Receives Honorable Mention for Barry Goldwater Scholarship

Naomi Gaggi presenting neuroscience research to CUNY administrators and government officials at the New York Legislative Office Building, Albany, NY.

Some students are student athletes; some are researchers or scholars.  Some study abroad, help in the community, and plan to devote their career to helping individuals on the Autism Spectrum.

Naomi Gaggi ’17 chose all of the above.

The Brooklyn native student at the Macaulay Honors College (MHC) recently received an Honorable Mention for the prestigious Barry Goldwater Scholarship.

However, her scholarship and achievements do not simply end there.

Gaggi is also a New York Trust Fund Scholarship Recipient, a Meyer Scholar, a National Collegiate Scholar, a Dean’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship Award winner, and a Dean’s List student.

The College of Staten Island (CSI) Psychology major with a concentration in Neuroscience and Autism Spectrum Disorders is naturally not content with simply wading through college with multiple scholarships and awards.  Gaggi is also an active member of CSI’s Women’s Swimming and Diving Team, securing her place as a CUNY Athletics Conference All-Star and Swimmer of the Week, both in 2016, and receiving the CSI Women’s Swimming & Diving Team Coach’s Award (2014 – 2015) and Rookie of the Year Award (2013 – 2014).

Naomi Gaggi at the 2015 CUNYAC Championships

A St. Joseph Hill Academy graduate, Gaggi does have some method to her college madness. “I am highly adamant in the importance of time management and being proactive in all aspects of being a student, not only in the classroom. I strive to exemplify a well-rounded student by maintaining a high GPA and being socially committed to my college and my community,” said Gaggi, adding that CSI Head Coach Michael Ackalitis has pushed her to grow as both a student and an athlete by stressing the importance of balancing athletic and academic life.

Her commitment to her community is apparent in her work with autistic children and adults that she has enjoyed since high school. She is also an active research assistant in two labs on campus, working with Dr. Patricia J. Brooks, Dr. Daniel McCloskey, Dr. Kristen Gillespie-Lynch, and Dr. Bertram O. Ploog and has conducted research at the Yale University School of Medicine, conducting neural imaging research with Dr. Joy Hirsch. She is also a member of Psi Chi, the CSI Student Athlete Advisory Committee, and the American Sign Language Club.

While Gaggi thanks many of her CSI professors and mentors, she praised in particular Dr. Daniel McCloskey, one of her research advisors, who has been “extremely welcoming.” McCloskey, a recent recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, encouraged the young researcher to work on projects in his lab where she discovered her keen interest in neuroscience.

In her spare time, the 21 year old has taken advantage of CSI’s Study Abroad program, traveling to Copenhagen, Denmark in the summer of 2015. This summer, she plans to volunteer abroad in Kandy, Sri Lanka to aid in the care of children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Both abroad experiences are funded by the Macaulay Honors College Opportunities Fund and the New York Trust Grant Scholarship.

Gaggi also lauded Dr. Charles Liu and the MHC staff as well as Fellowship and Scholarship Advisor at CSI’s Career and Scholarship Center Michele Galati for the constant support and guidance she has received throughout her journey at CSI. “Ms. Galati puts in as much effort into my applications as I do. She is extremely helpful and always finds the opportunities that match me perfectly,” said Gaggi.

After graduation, Gaggi plans to obtain a PhD in Neuropsychology/Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience to research and understand the etiology of neurological disorders. “My goals are to find the neuromarkers of autism and learn more about the ‘social’ brain of autism,” Gaggi said, adding that she plans to apply this knowledge to treating patients in a clinical setting as well as teaching at the university level.



President Obama Awards CSI Prof Dan McCloskey with Nation’s Highest Honor for Early Career Researchers

Dr. Dan McCloskey standing by a computer array in the Higher Performance Computing Center that crunches the data received by the transponders that track the social interactions and movements of the Naked Mole-rats.

President Barack Obama named College of Staten Island (CSI) Associate Professor of Psychology Dr. Daniel McCloskey a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, granting him the U.S. government’s highest award for scientists and engineers in the early stages of their independent research careers.

Dr. McCloskey, who is one of 105 researchers awarded this national distinction, was selected for his research that combines “modeling, neurophysiology, and systems biology/network science that will transform the field of social neuroscience by providing a comprehensive approach towards understanding the role of neuropetides in complex behavioral systems,” according to the National Science Foundation (NSF).

“These early-career scientists are leading the way in our efforts to confront and understand challenges from climate change to our health and wellness,” President Obama said. “We congratulate these accomplished individuals and encourage them to continue to serve as an example of the incredible promise and ingenuity of the American people.” The purpose of the award is to encourage and accelerate American innovation to grow the economy and tackle the country’s greatest challenges.

Dr. Daniel McCloskey to receive the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, the U.S. government's highest award for researchers in the early stages of their research careers.

“I am humbled to receive this recognition,” commented Dr. McCloskey. “It represents the hard work, creativity, and support from a team of students and colleagues who share my enthusiasm. I am also proud that our efforts have been considered ‘promising’ by the White House, as this confidence recognizes the progressive combination of resources and brain power at CSI to not only conduct cutting-edge research, but also to see it succeed. We look forward to delivering on that promise, by continuing to find new approaches to study the social brain.”

A Named Mole-rat "lunching" on a slice of cantaloupe in The McCloskey Laboratory animal facility, one of only approximately 12 such labs throughout the world working with the fossorial rodents native to parts of East Africa.

Dr. McCloskey will deliver on that promise by studying the African Naked Mole-rat, a unique and highly social fossorial rodent, and harnessing the power of the Interdisciplinary High-Performance Computing Center on the College’s campus, one of the region’s most powerful supercomputers. The computer center allows Dr. McCloskey to track the behavior of each of more than 100 animals in his colony with high resolution as they navigate their way through a complex system of tubes and cages. The animals are implanted with transponders similar to the ones used to pay tolls on bridges. Each time an animal passes through a tube with a sensor, the identity, location, and time of that event is stored in a database that receives hundreds of thousands of events each day. Analysis of these large datasets requires the power of a high-performance computer to manage them and ask questions about animal behavior. In this manner, insights into the organized social community will help the researchers to understand how individual differences in social behavior are influenced by physiological and environmental factors and understand the role of social behavior brain systems in health, as well as develop deeper insights into diseases such as epilepsy and autism.

The complex research being conducted “includes researchers from postdoctoral scientists to high school students, and all levels in between,” Dr. McCloskey notes with pride.

“The College of Staten Island has received numerous national accolades this year highlighting the transformative educational opportunities provided to our students and the professional prospects of our alumni,” noted Dr. William J. Fritz, President of the College of Staten Island and Fellow of the Geological Society of America. “Dr. McCloskey’s recognition by the National Science Foundation and President Obama is a testament to the high-caliber research that our students are exposed to in Dr. McCloskey’s lab, and indicative of the overall cutting-edge research being conducted at CSI. I extend my sincerest congratulations to Dr. McCloskey and his research team.”

“Dan McCloskey is a CSI faculty superstar who is deserving of this enormous honor in every way,” added Dr. Gary W. Reichard, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at CSI. “He not only conducts highly significant, cutting-edge research with real-world implications, but also serves as a mentor and role model daily for undergraduates and graduate students alike.  We are proud of him, and deeply grateful for his contributions to science and to our students.”

Dr. McCloskey is one of 21 Presidential Award recipients whose research was nominated by the NSF. Foundation Director France Córdova congratulated the “teacher-scholars who are developing new generations of outstanding scientists and engineers and ensuring this nation is a leading innovator. I applaud these recipients for their leadership, distinguished teaching, and commitment to public outreach.” Dr. McCloskey was awarded a five-year Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) grant from the NSF in 2012, one of approximately 500 nationwide.

The White House will hold a spring ceremony recognizing the honorees.

For more information, visit The McCloskey Laboratory online at

For more information on Naked Mole-rats, visit National Geographic.

Insight into Infant Development Beyond the Lab

Dr. Lana Karasik (left) is joined by current undergraduate researchers working on independent projects in her lab. Although the team has diverse backgrounds and varied interests post graduation, they share their enthusiasm for behavioral science and contribute to Dr. Karasik’s cross-cultural research in many valuable ways. The student researchers (L-R) Andrew Russo, Roseana Jolly, Tamara Moseley, Juliana Zaloom, and Andrew Garafalo (not pictured) have earned many accolades for their work.

College of Staten Island Professor of Psychology, Dr. Lana Karasik, and her research colleagues published a study last year in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology in which they describe group differences in infants’ sitting ability, opportunity to practice sitting, and mothers’ support of infants’ skills in five-month-olds from six cultures: Argentina, Cameroon, Italy, Kenya, South Korea, and the United States. Instead of testing babies in a psychology lab, researchers observed the infants in their homes: A researcher local to each of the six cultures visited mother and baby pairs in their homes for one hour.

According to Dr. Karasik, “Infant sitting is a very important skill—it frees their hands to explore objects and interact more easily with adults.” According to standard norms, only about 25% of infants achieve independent sitting by 5.5 months; typically, infants sit independently by seven months. However, according to Dr. Karasik’s research, these ages may be misleading because they are derived solely from research on Western babies.

In project meetings, undergraduate researchers discuss behavioral coding and, under Dr. Karasik’s mentorship, score video records of infant assessments. On the other side of the one-way mirror is the CSI Infant Development Laboratory space.

Although Dr. Karasik and her colleagues Dr. Karen Adolph, Dr. Catherine Tamis-Lemonda (NYU), and Dr. Marc Bornstein (NICHD) discovered that one third of the infants were able to sit independently, they also noticed significant cross-cultural variation. For example, only two U.S. infants and none of the Italian infants displayed independent sitting, but eight Kenyan and 11 Cameroonian infants were able to sit. Many inferences can be made based on these early results, although no conclusions can yet be drawn. “It’s tempting to infer that the cultural parenting practices in Kenya and Cameroon may have encouraged some of the infants in those cultures to acquire more precocious sitting abilities,” explained Christian Jarret, writer for BPS Research Digest, “but of course this was a purely observational study with small samples, and we don’t know whether the infant’s abilities influenced their parents’ behavior or vice versa.”

More broadly, findings from this study offer new insights into the remarkable range of ability, varied opportunities for practice, and contextual physical and social factors that influence the proficiency of infants’ skills. “Had we not looked beyond onset ages, ventured beyond the laboratory, and studied samples of infants from six cultures across the globe,” Dr. Karasik said, “we would never have known that at five months, some infants can safely sit on high benches for extended periods without the support of adults nearby.”

Funded by her second National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, Karasik and co-principal investigators Dr. Karen Adolph and Dr. Catherine Tamis-LeMonda with New York University, continue their cross-cultural work. The aim of the project is to examine effects of early experience and restricted movement on infant and child development. The $600,000 NSF award for the project entitled “RUI: An Investigation of Short and Long term Effects of Cradling on Development,” runs through July 2018. The project uses longitudinal sampling to examine concurrent effects of restricted movement on motor skills in infancy in 12- to 20-month-olds and long-term consequences at three to five years of age. This work will also provide insights into cascading effects of infant motor skills on development in other domains such as interactions with objects and people.

“Professor Karasik is breaking new ground in the study of infant behavior,” remarked Nan M. Sussman, Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences, and Professor of Psychology. “The majority of psychological research examines adult behavior in a restricted laboratory setting in a Western country. The wide range of possible human behaviors is overlooked using this paradigm.”

Dr. Karasik’s expertise includes perceptual-motor development, social-cognitive development, parenting, and cross-cultural issues around infant development.