From CSI to BU, Salutatorian Daniel Feldman Reaches for the Stars

College of Staten Island Salutatorian Daniel Feldman plans to begin studying Astronomy at Boston University as a PhD student in the Fall. He is a Physics major and part of the 2012 graduating class of the CUNY Macaulay Honors College at CSI.

Read Dan’s blog Science for Dessert, on the CSI Today Student Blogs page.

During his undergraduate studies, Feldman has taken part in numerous research projects. Starting the summer after his freshman year (2009), he conducted galaxy evolution research as part of a research team at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), under the advisement of CSI Professor Charles Liu. He presented this work at the 215th American Astronomical Society (AAS) Meeting in Washington, DC.

Over the course of 2010, Feldman participated in two research projects at CSI that were overseen by Professor Irving Robbins. The first was an asteroid-tracking project, determining the positions and trajectories of high-priority asteroids using data from Tenagra Observatory in Arizona. The second project involved helping to build a radio antenna to track solar flares; this work was done as part of the SID collaboration, which was run at Stanford University.

In the summer of 2010, Feldman was selected to participate in the CUNY Summer Undergraduate Research Program (C-SURP), where he worked with Professor Kelle Cruz at Hunter College and the AMNH, studying youth indicators in M dwarf stars. He continued this research through the following year, resulting in numerous research presentations, including the ASNY Conference at the University of Rochester and the AAS Meeting in Seattle, WA.

In the summer of 2011, Feldman was selected to participate in the NSF Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) Program at Northern Arizona University, studying Kuiper Belt Objects. This research resulted in presentations at both Columbia University’s AstroFest and the AAS Meeting in Austin,TX.

In his last year at CSI, Feldman has been working on his senior thesis with Professor Emily Rice, as well as collaborators in the BDNYC research group at AMNH; he has been using high-resolution near-infrared spectroscopy techniques to help determine the physical properties of brown dwarfs.

In addition to research, Feldman has been active in developing his teaching skills. Since his freshman year, he has worked as a physics and calculus tutor for  the Macaulay Honors College. Beginning in his junior year, he has also been employed at the College as an adjunct college lab technician (CLT) for the astronomy labs. He has also done outreach at CSI’s astrophysical observatory, helping teach the public about astronomy.

A graduate of Port Richmond High School, Feldman has a passion for music and theater. As hobbies, he enjoys playing numerous musical instruments, as well as performing as a singer/actor in musical theater productions in various venues on Staten Island. It is his hope to continue to pursue these scientific and artistic passions after graduation, and become successful in these different aspects of life.

In the fall of 2012, Feldman will begin studying Astronomy at Boston University as a PhD student. In the future, he has aspirations of becoming a professor at a research institution.


[video] From CSI to Harvard, Valedictorian Irvin Ibarguen Exemplifies What Can Be Achieved


Irvin Ibarguen (center, bottom) credits the support of his family for making his academic dreams a reality. (Photo courtesy of the Ibarguen family.)

Irvin Ibarguen, College of Staten Island Valedictorian for 2012, is the first CSI undergraduate to be admitted into Harvard University’s prestigious PhD History program.

View his commencement address.

Irvin, a senior History major with The Verrazano School honors program, began his college career as a Marketing major. When asked why he made the switch from Marketing to History, Irvin answered, “People usually think of history as a set of names and dates, but, in reality, it’s a lively and, at times, acrimonious debate. I wanted to be a part of it.”

[youtube][/youtube]Although Irvin is aware of his achievements, he regards his admittance to Harvard’s PhD program as one stop in a long, academic ride, which so far has earned him several scholarships including an IME Research Fellowship: a full-tuition scholarship awarded to Mexican Americans, and the prestigious Jeannette K. Watson Fellowship, which provides undergraduates with three consecutive summer internships.

As part of the Watson fellowship, Irvin has worked for the Institute of International Education; Crain’s New York Business, writing several articles for the seminal business newsletter; and will be traveling to Tunis, Tunisia to work for Amideast, a non-profit organization offering education activities in the Middle East, as a program assistant.  “Tunisia will be a radically different experience,” said Irvin. “I am looking forward to the challenge.”

Irvin maintained a 4.0 GPA and is quick to credit his CSI professors, namely, Drs. Calvin Holder and Richard Lufrano of the History department, for establishing “my love for reading and writing about History.”

On Irvin’s success at CSI, Dr. Lufrano noted: “In my 25 years of college teaching at different institutions, Irvin is among the top two undergraduates I have taught.”

Irvin especially credits his family with supporting him throughout his scholastic life.  His parents moved here in 1990 while his mother was still pregnant with him.

Growing up in a small apartment with ten inhabitants would seem like a drawback to many people but to Irvin it was more of a blessing. “I was never alone… They were the best support group,” he said of his parents who worked several jobs while raising him. “I was able to focus exclusively on my education.”

A graduate of Midwood High School in Brooklyn, Irvin also credits his background for motivating him to pursue a History PhD. “The scorn directed at illegal aliens often found its way down to me,” said Irvin, who admits to having distanced himself from his heritage while growing up. It was not until Irvin enrolled in an advanced seminar, in which he completed a paper about Mexican immigrants in New York City that he was able to “embrace the beauty of [his] Mexican background.”

At Harvard, Irvin hopes to continue to write about illegal immigration in a way that can contribute to ongoing debates.  In this regard, his background puts him in a unique position. “I am here because of the sacrifices of ‘illegal immigrants’ and I am deeply respectful of their plight, but I also grew up detached from them, so I can analyze their history with an interesting mix of passion and objectivity.”

Irvin eventually hopes to publish his dissertation, and establish himself in a tenure-track professor position where he can produce quality scholarship and influence students’ lives for the better.

For now though, he is “simply grateful to the CSI community for its constant support, especially Dr. Lufrano, Dr. Holder, [The Verrazano School’s] Katie Geschwendt, and [the Career and Scholarship Center‘s] Dr. Geoffrey Hempill.”

Evelyn Okeke Receives UNCF/Merck Undergraduate Science Research Scholarship Award

The United Negro College Fund and the Merck Company Foundation recently named CSI student Evelyn Okeke a 2012 UNCF/Merck Undergraduate Science Research Fellow.

Evelyn Okeke’s journey to becoming a research fellow began innocently enough, “I was basically grad school shopping,” she said during a recent interview.  “I stumbled onto the UNCF Website, saw an opportunity for a scholarship, and applied.”  Upon completion of the application, which took about a month, she said she had “a good feeling,” and was relieved when she was notified of the fellowship this past February. “I saw an opportunity to earn experience for research done in an industry (as opposed to academia),” she said. 

Okeke is a senior Biology major with a 4.0 GPA who moved to the United States from Germany about three years ago.  The Dresden native originally moved here in order to be closer to her boyfriend in the States but quickly decided that this was the perfect opportunity to pursue a dream she had been cultivating all her life. “I always wanted to change the world for the best,” said Okeke.  Having discovered a love for research that she says began at CSI under the tutelage of Dr. Abdeslem El Idrissi, Professor of Biology, Okeke saw a way she could impact the world.

Okeke’s academic interests are so diverse it is nearly impossible to list them all, but they include physiology, computational biology, neuroscience, and even biophysics. She is excited about beginning the internship, which begins June 4 and will last for approximately 12 weeks, as well as the opportunity to see the industry aspect of research science as opposed to solely academic research. “I hope I can greatly contribute.”

Evelyn wants to credit her CSI professors, namely, Dr. El Idrissi; Dr. Leonard Ciaccio, Professor of Biology; and Dr. Ralf Peetz, Associate Professor of Chemistry, with challenging her and “giving great support,” during her undergraduate career. “Also, I appreciate the great support of the Louis Stroke Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program and C-STEP, as well has the continued support from Jonathan Blaize (a graduate student in Neuroscience).”

The UNCF/Merck Science Initiative (UMSI) offers 37 annual awards to outstanding African American undergraduate or graduate students and postdoctoral researchers. The scholarship covers funds for tuition and room and board, as well as support for grants, hands-on training, and mentoring relationships.  In order to apply for an undergraduate research scholarship, the applicant must be African American, enrolled as junior who will be a degree candidate in the 2012-2013 academic year with a minimum GPA of 3.3.  More information about scholarship opportunities with UNCF/MERCK is available online.   

[video, gallery] Students Shine in “CSI’s Got Talent”

L-R: Jovanni Crespo, Dr. Tomás D. Morales, Alexa Criscitiello, Mark White, Carol Brower, and Dr. A. Ramona Brown

Throughout its history, students at the College of Staten Island have been no strangers to the limelight, as the College has produced its share of movers and shakers in various professions, distinguished fellows and scholars, and a long string of championship athletes and teams.

View the CTV Production and the CSI Today Photo Gallery.

Throughout this semester, the College’s students had other opportunities to excel and show their chops in the first-ever “CSI’s Got Talent” competition, which wrapped up last week in the Center for the Arts in front of an enthusiastic capacity crowd of more than 300, including CUNY Trustee Kathleen Pesile, CSI President Tomás D. Morales, and many members of the administration, faculty, and staff.

The event’s MCs, who moved the competition along, providing a mix of humor and information about the contestants, while putting the performers at ease, were two Staten Islanders: Jay Miller, host of the talk show Mid-Evenings with Jay Miller, and Sal Vulcano, co-founder of The Tenderloins comedy troupe and star of a new hidden camera show on TruTV.

Carol Brower, Director of Student Life, said that the event, which featured a myriad of acts, including singers, dancers, a stepping group, a vertical guitarist, and even a yo-yo-ist, came together rather quickly. After more than 100 students auditioned in February, Brower reported that the acts were so good that the judges were unable to narrow the field down to 12, so they decided to hold a semi-final round in March. From there, the judges chose the final 12 contestants, who performed last week.

The top-three winners were:

Alexa Criscitiello, who will be graduating from CSI this May with a Bachelor’s degree in Communications, received First-Place honors, bringing the audience to their feet while performing two numbers from Broadway musicals. Alexa will also be singing the National Anthem at this year’s Commencement.

Jovanni Crespo, a first-semester transfer student, won Second Place for his unbelievably fun and dynamic yo-yo act. A talent he has brought to competitions and even the Today Show. You had to see it to believe it.

Mark White, a senior Business major who is a singer-songwriter, was the Third-Place winner. He performed original songs that both moved and inspired the audience.

Receiving honorable mentions were Abidemi Komolafe, a Psychology major, who electrified the audience with her emotionally charged praise dancing, and freshman Biology major Troy Weekes, an R&B and gospel singer-songwriter who has auditioned for American Idol, The Voice, and The X-Factor.

President Morales commented, “The many talents of our students never fail to make me proud of their accomplishments, but it was an extraordinary pleasure to experience these performances, which were so well received by the audience.”

Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. A. Ramona Brown noted “CSI’s Got Talent was so well executed and spectacular. This was an extraordinary effort that brought the College community together to have an evening of fun, entertainment, and the opportunity to bond together. The broad, diverse, and amazing talent of our CSI students is now well known and we hope this event will be the first of many more to come.”

Brower is also very hopeful that this will become a regular event because, she said, “People were describing this as one of the best events they’ve ever attended at the College.”

Summing up the experience, Brower added that “This has been the most fun and rewarding program that my office has ever put together. For me, there were several amazing components: the unbelievable talent of our students and the relationships that developed among all of the contestants, the sheer joy and spirit of the event itself, and the incredible collaborative effort made by the many offices and staff that contributed to make this a success.”

Troy Weekes, Jr. Earns Jeannette K. Watson Fellowship

CSI Biology major Troy Weekes, Jr. is the College's latest Jeannette K. Watson Fellow.

For the fifth consecutive year, a CSI student has been accepted into the Jeannette K. Watson Fellowship.

Troy Weekes, Jr. is a freshman member of the SEEK and STEAM programs, majoring in Biology with a minor concentration in Theater. Weekes is a nontraditional student, returning to college to pursue his education seven years after graduating high school. During his time out of school, he held various full-time positions, including Gallery Coordinator at the Hilton Grand Hotel, Operations Supervisor at Rockefeller Center – Top of the Rock, and as a Flight Attendant for Colgan Airlines. Weekes is also a natural performer: he has sung publically since early childhood, both solo and in gospel choirs; during his teenage years, he participated in multiple talent showcases and competitions, including singing at the Apollo Theater twice. He is also an actor, having worked in two commercials, one public service announcement, two independent films, and one Nickelodeon network program. He can currently be seen on campus as a member of the CSI Gospel Choir and a finalist in the CSI’s Got Talent competition. Weekes is also deeply committed to mentoring young people; for the last few years, he has worked closely with teenagers at the Family and Friend Christian Worship Center in Brownsville, NY, and he is currently serving as a SEEK Ambassador, helping new SEEK students adjust to life in college. In addition to these accomplishments, he has managed to maintain a 3.88 GPA. Upon graduation, Weekes plans to attend pursue a career in education as a high school biology teacher and principal.

The Watson Fellowship is a three-year career-building and mentoring program that places students in paid internships for the final three summers of their college careers. Watson Fellows also have the opportunity to attend various cultural events and professional development events around the city. Recent CSI recipients of the Fellowship have included Paul Olivier (2011), Irvin Ibarguen (2010), Brian Kateman and Michael Maslankowski (2009), and Michael Young (2008).

For this upcoming summer’s internship, Weekes is considering Global Kids, Scenarios USA, and the Studio Museum in Harlem.

In order to apply for the Watson Fellowship, students must be freshmen or sophomores, not older than 25 years old at the time of application, and U.S. citizens or green card holders. Ideal candidates will be able to demonstrate a history of academic success and community/college involvement. If you would like to learn more about this exciting opportunity, please visit the Career and Scholarship Center in Building 1A, Room 105 or call 718.982.2301.

Where Are They Now? – Michael Young ’10

Michael Young '10 is embarking on a Fulbright assistantship in Madrid.

Michael Young, who was also known for his role as founder and editor of the humor magazine Operation Three-Legged Dolphin, is currently a Fulbright Scholar, working as an English Teaching Assistant in Spain until the end of June 2012. “My placement is Instituto Clara Campoamor in Móstoles,” Young explains, “which is part of the Madrid region of Spain. This is the first year that the school has become a part of the bilingual program, which means that some students at the ‘Primero’ level (11 and 12 years old) get English education in all of their classes except for Math and Spanish. As an ‘auxiliar,’ I am part of English, Art, Science, Physical Education, and Technology classrooms, where I serve as a resource to students and teachers as a native speaker of English. I do everything from designing lessons, teaching and correcting spelling and grammar, to leading conversation groups. It’s broadened my abilities as someone who relates to students and as a thinker as well. In my classes I am reminded of my own education and feel a great sense of gratitude for all of the teachers who have led me to being here. I often tell my students that I started studying Spanish when I was their age, and because I studied in middle school and continued to study through high school and college I was able to have the opportunity to come teach in Spain.”

Although he began his study of the Spanish language at an early age, Young says, “My CSI education has prepared me well for this role. My Spanish minor has helped me tremendously, as it gave me a level of Spanish proficiency on which to build during my time here. My American Studies major has been useful as I explain to students various aspects of American culture, such as our music, art, geography, and sports. Fulbright was started to promote cultural understanding and communication between people of different countries and what better way to share my culture than to draw upon what I have been taught in college? And my Studio Art minor comes in handy as I work in Art classrooms and incorporate visuals into a lot of my lessons. I have drawn upon all of my experiences at CSI as a toolbox for being an effective teacher who brings something into the classroom. Also, CSI faculty were key in helping me prepare my application for the Fulbright, so I owe a lot of credit to them.”

After his Fulbright appointment is over, Michael notes that he “can see myself continuing down the road of education in some capacity.”

[gallery] Dean’s List Students Honored at Ceremony

Goldwater Scholar Mark Barahman joins CSI President Dr. Tomas D. Morales

The College of Staten Island celebrated the achievements of some of its brightest students, recently, at its annual Dean’s List Recognition Ceremony in the Center for the Arts Concert Hall.

View the CSI Today Photo Gallery.

Speaking to the honorees, College President Dr. Tomás D. Morales said, “Your achievements reflect the continuing evolution of academic excellence here at the College of Staten Island. Every year, the academic profile of our incoming baccalaureate students—their College Admissions Averages and SAT scores—have increased to unprecedented levels. Our honors programs—Macaulay Honors and The Verrazano School—are attaining record enrollments, and the Teacher Education Honors Academy continues to thrive. More of the best and brightest students are making the choice to come toCollegeofStaten Island, and you—our highest achieving students—are leading the way.”

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. William Fritz followed the President, recognizing the members of the College administration and outlining the criteria for Dean’s List inclusion.

The student speakers were Goldwater Scholar Mark Barahman, a senior Biochemistry major in the Macaulay Honors College and a Goldsmith Scholar, and Annalisa Susca, a senior with an Italian Studies major in the Macaulay Honors College.

Following the students’ comments, Associate Provost for Undergraduate Studies Dr. Deborah Vess introduced Nursing Professor Marianne Jeffries, who served as the Dean’s List Faculty Speaker. Then, Dr. Ashley Dawson, Chairperson of the Department of English, and Dr. Mary O’Donnell, Chairperson of the Department of Nursing, recognized the Dean’s List Students, who came up to the lectern to receive a medallion and have their picture taken with Dr. Morales.

The ceremony concluded with closing remarks from Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. A. Ramona Brown, and a reception in the Center for the Arts Atrium.

American Cancer Society Honors CSI

(L-R:) Elizabeth Davis, Dan Hoizner, Karen Klingele, and Robert King Kee

The College of Staten Island was one of two honorees at a gathering of the Staten Island Chapter of the American Cancer Society (ACS) that was held last week at Li Greci’s Staaten. The recognition came as a result of CSI students raising over $25,000 over two years for the ACS’s Relay for Life. The other honoree at the event was Staten Island’s Robert DeFalco Realty.

Three of four CSI students who were on the main planning committee for the CSI Relay, Dan Hoizner, Karen Klingele, and Elizabeth Davis, accepted the award on behalf of the College and College President Dr. Tomás D. Morales. Roxanne Mecurio, the fourth planning committee member, was unable to attend.

Two years ago, the ACS contacted Dr. Morales to solicit support for the event from the College community, after Dr. Morales signed onto the event, the Office of Student Life took the lead, under the supervision of Robert King Kee, Coordinator for Student Leadership Development. Kee initially engaged Emerging Leaders program students, but many other students became involved, resulting in the successful fundraising effort over two years.

In addition to the student contribution to the Relay, the ACS recognized Dr. Morales’s leadership and expeditious response to the call for support.

Other CSI representatives in attendance at the event included CSI Vice President for Institutional Advancement and External Affairs Barbara Eshoo, Robert King Kee, CSI Foundation Vice President Samir Farag, and CSI Academy of Retired Professors Steering Committee member and President of the Staten Island Chapter of the ACS Dr. Ann Merlino.

CSI students are deeply committed to serving the Staten Island community. In 2008 and 2009 the College was named to the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, the highest federal recognition a college or university can receive for its commitment to volunteering, service-learning, and civic engagement.