Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Steven Arriaga (Class of 2017) has just joined the Verrazano School Honors Program. A study abroad experience changed his life and led him to more travel, and to Verrazano. In addition to studying English with a linguistics concentration, Steven will earn a minor in French, and some serious travelling credentials! 

A CSI/Italy Connection
My name is Steven Arriaga, a Verrazano student and Linguistics major at the College of Staten Island, and I’m currently studying abroad in Italy! Enrolled in an Italian Food, Culture, and Society course at Florence University of the Arts, this is officially my second time attending an overseas program (Vive la France!). Before arriving to Italy, I had the pleasure of traveling with my college mentor, Professor Tortora, where she presented our research project at the University of Iceland. Soon after, I enjoyed some time in my home country of Spain, anticipating a huge Barcelona soccer game among the Catalonians (nevertheless, Hala Madrid!). Aiming to visit ten countries before turning 21, I’ve been to Mexico, France, the UK, Belgium, Iceland, Spain, Italy, The Vatican (this totally counts), and will be going to Austria and Denmark before ending my journey in the City of Light. Although I return home in about 3 weeks, this trip has been nothing short of amazing. A unique program, we traveled during our first week throughout Italy before reaching the beautiful Firenze. Having visited various places including Rome, Viterbo, Populonia, and Viareggio, every city helped me appreciate the traditions that Italians so proudly represent. Although I have an utmost passion for French culture, Italy definitely gives them a run for their money and as an avid photographer, I’m making sure that I capture every breathtaking moment. We also cook and taste different Italian food and wine in class, so what’s not to love? I’ve had the pleasure of meeting students from other CUNYs as well as other states including Massachusetts and Tennessee. Best of all, however, is the fact that I’m slowly but surely picking up Italian as my fourth language! It greatly complements my major and goal to become a college professor, so this trip has already been worthwhile to say the least.

Travel is bliss.
      Studying abroad has definitely been the highlight of my college career and after working as a peer advisor at CSI’s Center for International Service for a year, my desire to continue traveling is greater than ever! I can’t begin to explain how much I’ve grown since I’ve begun traveling, but I can definitely say that I’m a more than twice the person I was a year ago. Europe is the place where I grew passionate for soccer, fine art, photography, literature and surprisingly, fashion, so it’s easily been the most influential time in my life. My future goals include winning a Gilman scholarship to return to Europe for a full semester before applying for a Fulbright Teaching Assistantship and there’s no doubt in my mind that these feats are possible! I could continue writing for hours about how life-changing Europe is but I have to start packing now for Vienna before going out for some amazing focaccia and gelato. Ciao!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Studying Abroad in Florence, Italy over the Summer

Tayla Lugo, Verrazano Class of 2017, has been waiting anxiously for this day since March. That's when she learned she had received a Verrazano Study Abroad Scholarship to attend a CSI course taught in Florence, Italy, over the summer. Read on to share her anticipation!
            My name is Tayla Lugo and I am a Verrazano Student at the College of Staten Island. This summer I am accomplishing something I have always dreamt of doing since I was a little girl: I am studying abroad. I am leaving on May 27, 2015 to study abroad in Florence, Italy.
            I have never been more excited about anything in my life. I also have never been out of the country before and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous. Thankfully, my excitement trumps my nervousness and I look forward to embracing this amazing experience. This is my first step in pursuing my dreams of traveling the world. I plan on traveling all over Italy and also to Paris, France while I am abroad. If you saw my room, you would know how obsessed I am with Paris because of all the pictures I have hanging on my walls.
            It is very important for me to experience the different cultures, languages, and traditions while learning about myself along the way. I hope to come home with a better understanding of the world and a deeper respect for the Italian culture. I cannot wait to get down with my Italian roots and learn more about where my family came from.
I am beyond grateful to the College of Staten Island, the Verrazano School, and everyone else who helped to make this journey possible for me. I am counting down the hours until I am in the land of pasta and gelato. This opportunity will shape the rest of my life and I cannot wait to share it with all with you!
The next time I will be writing to you all is when I am in Italy. How insane is that? I still cannot believe it. Someone needs to pinch me. By the way, packing for a month was such a challenge that I finally conquered after repacking a good three times. I am a girl and I tend to over pack when I go away for a week, let alone a month. I took pictures so you can all see how my wardrobe failed me and threw up all over my room. It was not pretty.
            I hope it will give you a good laugh!
Tayla Lugo


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Mathematical Finance: A Verrazano Course Enrichment Project

Michael Siozios, Verrazano Class of 2015, did a special Verrazano course enrichment project in an upper-level mathematics course during the fall semester.  Read below to hear from Michael about what he learned from the course and the project.

Michael Siozios, Class of 2015
Hello, my name is Michael Siozios, and my majors are Mathematics and Finance. I am part of the Verrazano Class of 2015.

My Fall 2014 semester was awesome to say the least. I had a research experience unlike any other, in which I was lucky to witness, in action, all of the mathematics I’ve had exposure to my entire life. Thank you to the Verrazano Program for making this possible. I interacted directly with mathematical finance, utilizing the mechanics necessary for future study in financial engineering. My course material and the research project made me aware that the depth of knowledge necessary to be fluent in this field is vast.

I was able to see and understand a beautiful derivation of the Black and Scholes formula used to price options available for sale in the financial markets. The techniques used to price options are amazing. My favorite part of pricing options is that the methods financial engineers and banks apply hedge an option that writers position to be risk neutral in theory.  Hedging, in investment terms, means that investors use strategies and instruments to try to reduce or offset risk as much as possible. I see why the options market has grown over time to be a tremendous industry.

The course strategy was amazing and taught with passion, giving the class a great perspective on the material. We obtained a thorough understanding of the discrete elements of the course, and by employing methods learned in continuous probability, we were able to move into the continuous, and thus more realistic, world nicely.

Programming was a focus of my research outside of the classroom, and I analyzed and compared models designed to price options appropriately.  A “correct” option price eliminates arbitrage opportunities.  Arbitrage is when someone buys in one market and, at the same time, sells in another market without much, if any, financial risk. I learned that after many instances of time accounted for discretely using the binomial option pricing model, one may price options nicely. Otherwise, one may use the Black Scholes formula. Why am I interested in this material? It’s simple: options have been a key component in finance for a long time, and they allow individuals to hedge their investments. It has even given rise to other practices like option trading. These are business opportunities available to everyone, making it possible for individuals to have a diversified portfolio and a varied source of income.

An important lesson learned in my research experience is that there is no upper limit to the knowledge of programming I should obtain. Many individuals prefer some languages over others; however, knowing multiple programming languages can be extremely beneficial to someone in the field of financial engineering.

All in all, although the demands of my courses and research combined were extensive, this experience was excellent. I have far more knowledge than previously, and I’ve acquired information necessary for my future career.

Exploring The City: 2014 VELA Highlights

One of the ways that Verrazano students learn outside of the classroom is by participating in Verrazano Extracurricular Learning Activities, or VELAs.  These are fun, interesting, and informative events that help students expand their knowledge, connect them with opportunities, prepare them for the future, and give them a well-rounded undergraduate experience.
Off-campus Double-VELAs are the highlight of the VELA calendar, and they allow students to get connected with the incredible resources and rich history of New York City.   In 2014, Verrazano students participated in a number of off-campus VELA excursions.   These included trips to the New York Public Library, Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm, the Steinway Piano Factory, the New York Transit Museum, the Museum of the City of New York, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, and walking tours with Matt Postal - an architectural historian.  See some of the highlights below!

Steinway Piano Factory Tour  
Astoria, Queens


Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm
Brooklyn Navy Yard

Recent Developments of Lower Manhattan with Matt Postal, architectural historian

New York Transit Museum
Downtown Brooklyn

Museum of the City of New York
East Harlem

Joseph Inigo, Verrrazano Honors Class of 2013, has completed his first semester of a PhD program in Molecular Pharmacology and Cancer Therapeutics. He reflects on how earning a biochemistry degree and Verrazano honors at CSI, has prepared him for this next stage of his career.

Hello friends,

Just a month ago, I completed the first semester of my PhD program in Molecular Pharmacology and Cancer Therapeutics at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute. The winter break has given me time to reflect upon my experiences and I wish to share some of them with you. As I ready to type, with coffee in hand and a wintry view offered by the window beside me, my memory shifts to the previous spring. I was actually away for a conference where I was due to present my research on brain tumors, when I received an email from the Roswell Institute. They seemed pleased with my recent interview and more importantly, they had offered me acceptance into their graduate program. I welled up with great excitement and could not believe what I had just read. In fact, the next day I frequently looked for that same email just to make sure that it was not a dream I conjured the previous night.
Joseph Inigo on campus (during the day!)

Fast forward to the fall where I had just moved into my first apartment in downtown Buffalo. It was quite an adjustment that I had to make. Now in a new city filled with strangers, I felt as if I were starting my life from scratch. Although this stirred up a sense of apprehension, along with it came feelings of excitement and joy. I resolved to approach this new phase of my academic career with the utmost enthusiasm and vigor, in the same manner that one of my heroes, Theodore Roosevelt, would have (To my great surprise, the Theodore Roosevelt inaugural site is only a block away from my apartment!). On the first day of student orientation I rose earlier than normal. And as I arrived at the auditorium, I pushed through the doors with eyes beaming and bellowed a hearty “hello” to what awaited me on the other side. I was greeted with a flickering light and an empty room. This was when I came to realize that perhaps I was a bit overzealous in my arrival; I was over an hour early to the event and the sun had barely risen.
                Yet for the months to come, I aimed to face each day with the same degree of enthusiasm and fervor. As a newcomer at Roswell, I was well aware that my colleagues and superiors would be years ahead in terms of knowledge and experience pertaining to oncology. There were many aspects of the field I had yet to uncover and it was quite a shift. Although I had previously delved into cancer research, my primary training was in neuroscience. However, looking back I now realize that I was more than ready to face any challenge that was to come my way due to my years at the College of Staten Island.
During my time at CSI I had the honor of working with Dr. Probal Banerjee and his lab for several years.  One of the greatest assets at CSI, I realized, is the opportunity for students to work closely with faculty members and perform high-level research. I took advantage of this environment and along the way, I gained many skills through my involvement in various projects. For example, I was trained to record electrical activity of the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex with the aim of discovering effects elicited by drug-receptor interactions. I learned to work with cell lines, perform animal surgery, and synthesize drug compounds during my work in combating brain tumors. Equally as important, I was also taught how to think like a scientist, which involves the ability to analyze data while detecting the most minute of details, to assemble facts and form theories, and to question the prevailing dogma. This ultimately brought forth from myself a great appreciation for the sciences and it prepared me well for what was to come at the Roswell Institute.
I was then able to quickly integrate myself into my current lab environment at the Roswell Institute because of the mindset and practical skills I came armed with. Within the past few months, I have been able to further broaden my skills, allowing me to research prostate and pancreatic cancer as well as aging and genetic damage. I have been able to greatly expand my understanding of cancer biology, in terms of how it originates at the cellular level and what novel techniques are available for battling this disease.  And along the way, I have met some quite interesting personalities and made friends with some spirited individuals.

Going forward, I feel that I can make an impact on the world at large and make my dreams into a reality. And I will forever be grateful for the staff, colleagues, and friends at CSI who provided the lessons and experiences necessary for me to reach this point in my life. A life in which I am able to realize my passion and purpose.