Wednesday, June 20, 2012

An Academic Adventure in Morocco

Francesca Messina, a Nursing major in the Verrazano Class of 2014, is one of several Verrazano students who received a Verrazano Conference Travel Grant to present her research at an International Taurine conference in Morocco over spring break.  Below, Francesca shares how she she got involved in research at CSI and what it was like participating in the conference in Morocco.

Dr. El Idrissi and Francesca Messina
Over spring break 2012, I had the pleasure of attending a research conference on Taurine in Morocco with the help of a Verrazano Conference Travel Grant. This was one of the best experiences of my life. Not only did I get the chance to study abroad for a week and experience a completely different culture, but I also presented research along with many brilliant researchers from around the world.

I transferred to CSI from Quinnipiac University for the fall of 2011.  Upon entering CSI, I took a summer anatomy class which Dr. El Idrissi taught . Afterwards, I continued to keep in touch with Dr. El Idrissi as I knew he was a neuroscientist and I was interested in the research he was doing. I did not know how big of an influence he would be on my life.  I started to do research with Dr. El Idrissi, which was a bit out of my element being that I am a nursing major, and I was doing research in neuroscience. However, I gradually came to love what I was doing.
The conference in Morocco was held every day for students and researchers alike to see the groundbreaking findings that had been discovered. This conference gave us the opportunity to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of people’s research. It also enabled us to see the implications that taurine has on human beings. Taurine is a vital organic acid in our bodies that is essential for the functioning of major organ systems in our bodies. It aids in cardiovascular function, skeletal muscle function, retina function, the central nervous system, and much more. In today’s world, taurine is commonly known as the major ingredient in energy drinks.

My research dealt with taurine and diabetes. I examined diabetes-induced retinal degeneration. Alloxan is a diabetogenic compound. When given to mice, it induces diabetes within 72 hours by selectively killing the beta cell of the pancreas. This leads to a similar condition as type 1 diabetes. Alloxan-induced beta cell death is mediated through free radical production. Since taurine has potent anti-oxidative properties, I tested the ability of taurine to block the alloxan-induced beta cell death and diabetes induction.

Morocco was an astonishing place to see. The people, food, culture, and lifestyles were completely unfamiliar to me. It was amazing to see how differently people can live in another country. Some people in Morocco make their living by selling their wares in the markets. I was buying presents for my family as the vendors were making a living off my money. I felt such a gap when I experienced this huge difference in our economies. Walking through dirt roads, I learned many things about the people there, and I really saw how different their appreciation for life was. They celebrate life in ways Americans would not think to appreciate life.

The Taurine Conference in Morocco was an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience for me.  The Verrazano Conference Travel Grant enabled me to learn and experience many new amazing things about the world, the Moroccan culture, research, and even myself. Without this grant, I would not have been able to present my research in Morocco. I would highly recommend studying abroad, and I hold the Verrazano scholarships and grants in high regard.  They are very valuable tools for any student of the Verrazano program.  Verrazano students should actively take advantage of every opportunity that the Verrazano Honors Program offers.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Verrazano Student Anticipates her Literary Adventure in Paris

Alicia Jimenez, Verrazano Class of 2013, is a Spring 2012 recipient of a Verrazano Study Abroad Scholarship to support her study abroad experience in France during the summer.  This is the first of three posts that Alicia will be contributing about her participation in the study abroad program.

I am incredibly excited to be going to Paris this summer. My reasons for being excited may seem obvious—of course I’m excited to go to Paris, it’s Paris! Paris is one of the top travel destinations in the world, an absolute must-see for anyone wishing to venture out from their home borders and experience rich culture. But what truly excites me about going to Paris, beyond the simple idea of getting to leave the country for the first time in my life, is my program.

Alicia Jimenez
I have always had the idea of studying abroad in the back of my head throughout my undergraduate career. The Verrazano School always encouraged this idea, particularly with their study abroad panels. Hearing about other students’ experiences abroad really made me determined to check out the programs for myself, because they proved to me what I had already believed: international education is absolutely essential to any student who has an interest in broadening his or her worldview and experiencing new cultures. We are fortunate to live in a multiethnic city full of different types of people, but there is something entirely different about experiencing different types of people somewhere outside of our home. It can be frightening, exciting and invigorating, and absolutely a rewarding experience.

There is also something different about learning abroad, and this is why I believe travel is so essential to students. Students are constantly taking in new information, seeking out new information, and what I love about academia is that it never really stops. This is why I want to stay in academia, contributing to this cycle of teaching and constantly learning from each other. I also know that people learn best in context, and this is true for anything. My chosen field of English Literature is incredibly exciting because it can take you anywhere; Hemingway has brought me to the peaks of Mount Kilimanjaro and to the streets of Paris with his words, and all I have ever wanted is to follow him physically, to walk (or, more realistically, fly!) myself there. Traveling broadens the context of learning, enriching it farther than our minds can.

This is how I knew that Paris, A Literary Adventure was the perfect program for me. This is what truly sealed my determination to study abroad. In this program, I will quite literally be following in Hemingway’s footsteps, as well as those of Gertrude Stein, Jack Kerouac, Langston Hughes, and others. For a month, I will be enriching myself in the literature of those who travelled to Paris and used the city as a wealth of inspiration and an exchange of culture. They used their experiences abroad to better understand their identities as Americans, and American identity is a subject that I am particularly fascinated by, particularly on a global scale. I hope to continue examining it in graduate school and beyond, and this is a first and crucial step. Reading and discussing the works that these writers created in the city that inspired and housed them will truly heighten this understanding, and I absolutely cannot wait to start!

Ernest Hemingway once said, “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” I happen to believe that this is true for study abroad in general, and that what I learn in Paris will absolutely stay with me, perhaps more than any other experience as an undergraduate. I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity, because I love to read, learn, and understand new ideas, and there is no better forum in which to do so than a global forum.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Serving the Community through Dance

Adriane Musacchio, Verrazano Class of 2014, is pursuing a double-degree in Dramatic Arts and History/Adolescent Education.  Adriane volunteers her time working with teenagers as a choreographer for a community organization in Brooklyn, and below she shares more about her experience.

Hi everyone!

Adriane Musacchio
My name is Adriane Musacchio and I am currently a sophomore Verrazano Honors student. I have been doing community service at BrooklynONEtheater+film since last October as the Dance Director and Choreographer for the BrooklynONE Dance Company and as the Choreographer for the BrooklynONE Youth Ensemble. After being a Bay Ridge Teen Idol finalist this past summer, Anthony Marino, the co-owner and Artistic Director of BrooklynONEtheater+film, asked me if I wanted to choreograph a Christmas show for the BrooklynONE Youth Ensemble.

The BrooklynONE Youth Ensemble is comprised of teenagers ages 12-18 who enjoy singing, dancing, and acting. The Christmas show displayed all of these talents when the members sang festive Christmas songs, acted out an original skit written by one of the Youth Ensemble members, and danced to dances I choreographed. After working with these talented teenagers and the wonderful production team for the Christmas show, Anthony decided to add a Dance Company to BrooklynONEtheater+film and made me the Dance Director and Choreographer of it. The BrooklynONE Dance Company allows dancers ages 12 and up to explore and hone their craft. As Dance Director, I organize and plan what dances the BrooklynONE dancers will perform at community events and dance showcases. As Choreographer I teach a broad range of dance styles including jazz, tap, lyrical, contemporary, ballet, and hip hop. The BrooklynONE Dance Company had their first performance at the Bay Ridge Festival of the Arts last month and will be performing at Relay For Life on June 23rd.

Adriane and her students
I love doing community service at BrooklynONEtheater+film! Not only do I enjoy it, but I also find it extremely fulfilling. As a Dramatic Arts and Secondary Education major, I feel this community service job fulfills my two favorite interests; teaching teenagers while at the same time combining dance and theater. I can’t wait to continue working with the BrooklynONE Dance Company and Youth Ensemble members!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Looking Forward to a Summer in Spain

Mark Kavanaugh, Verrazano Class of 2013, is a Spring 2012 recipient of a Verrazano Study Abroad Scholarship to support his study abroad experience in Spain during the summer.  This is the first of three posts that Mark will be contributing about his participation in the study abroad program.

My name is Mark Kavanaugh and this summer I will be studying abroad in Santander, Spain. I have had the desire for a study abroad experience for some time, and when I learned of the Verrazano Study Abroad Scholarship last fall, I was extremely excited about the potential opportunity. I considered for a time where I would like to go on a sojourn abroad. After weighing the options between places like Brussels, London, and Copenhagen, I finally settled on Santander.

Mark Kavanaugh
Santander, a hidden gem on the northern coast of Spain, is the impressive capital of the region of Cantabria. For me, it seemed like the perfect setting for an adventure in a foreign country. It is situated on a breathtaking beach, is relatively close to the French border, and is only a short flight to other destinations in Europe like London and Rome. The convenience of its location was not the only deciding factor, however. Spain is a varied country, and is home to thriving cultures which would surprise some people. Mexico is not Spain. Spain is a place which has a storied history, having Celtic, Roman, Germanic, and North African roots. It is a singularly unique European country in that it is a nation made up of smaller nations, each with its own people, language, and tradition. I could not pass up the opportunity to visit such an amazing place.

More practically, studying abroad in Spain allowed for completing my minor in the Spanish language. Spanish (commonly called Castilian, or castellano, in Spain) is the majority language and language of government. But Spain is home to other languages, the most widely spoken of which are Catalan, Galician, and Basque. But Castilian has always had a special mystique for me. Within the last five hundred years or so, it has been elevated to a global language, and is increasingly more important to be able to speak competently. I feel it is a good language for me to learn, as I am considering a master’s degree in history, specifically that of medieval Spain. I would also be interested in a side career in literary translations, specializing in Spanish (and perhaps Portuguese, which I am also eager to learn). In short, studying the language in Spain will allow me to complete my minor requirements while also refining my verbal skills.

While in Santander, I will be studying at Universidad Internacional Menéndez Pelayo, which is a university which caters specifically to foreign students. While there, I will take eighty hours of classes, both in language and the culture of Cantabria and Spain as a whole. I will be staying in the university dormitories, close to the city center and all the action which Santander has to offer.

Though there is much to anticipate with a study abroad experience, I am most excited about traveling within Spain and within Europe during the summer. I hope to get down to the city of Pamplona in the region of Navarre so I can see the running of the bulls during the festival of San Fermín. I hope to take a trip to Bilbao, capital of the Basque Country. One of the things I would most like to do is travel to the northeast of Spain and walk across the border into France. I am also quite excited about living on my own in a foreign country for a month, and having an exercise in independence.

However, I am realistic, and I know that the experience will not be without its headaches and drawbacks. Already, the amount of formalities I have had to endure merely to reserve a spot at the university has been exhausting. But it is nearly resolved, and I am well on my way to an enjoyable and enlightening summer in Santander.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Verrazano Student Wins Award at Statewide CSTEP Conference

Angelica Grant, Psychology major in the Verrazano Class of 2013, presented her research at the CSTEP Conference in Lake George, NY and won first place for her presentation. Congratulations, Angelica! 

Please read below for more about Angelica's perspective on her research and her experience participating in the conference.

This past April, I had the chance to attend the 20th Annual Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP) Statewide Student Conference, which took place in Lake George, New York and was designed for students in the science, technology, engineering and math disciplines from colleges across New York state to gather together and present their research through poster and oral presentations.

The poster I presented, entitled, “Children’s Socio-Cognitive Understanding of Jealousy: The Effects of Age, Gender, and Perspective Taking Ability during Middle Childhood”, took 5 months to complete. I had been conducting the research for the poster with Nicole Kwoka under the supervision of Naomi J. Aldrich and Dr. Patricia J. Brooks.
For our research, we had a sample of 30 children (15 boys, 15 girls) between the ages of 5 and 11 give personal narratives about times where they felt jealous and tested them on four different tasks, including tests of emotional comprehension, language development, perspective taking ability and intellectual ability. We examined their narratives for jealousy labels (emotions) and explanation (emotions followed by an explanation) and found that as age increased, children’s emotional understanding, language ability and perspective taking ability increased and girls used more emotion words and talked more about jealousy in their stories than boys did.
Angelica Grant (holding trophy) with Doriane Bouobda, Joel Cadet, and Melice Golding
(Verrazano students)
I found out about CSTEP through Dr. Patricia Brooks at the beginning of the Spring 2012 semester. She informed me that this program focuses on supporting underrepresented students who are pursuing careers in the STEM disciplines and provides them with opportunities to present their research at conferences, which made me interested in applying as psychology was included under the STEM umbrella. 

The CSTEP Conference was an amazing experience which allowed me to present my research to other college students and members of the academic world. I enjoyed being around so many like-minded students and faculty who were focused on pursuing their academic goals and becoming professionals in their chosen field. The conference offered workshops and motivational speeches as well, which gave me pointers on how to study effectively, cope with stress, and connect with students from different schools through networking. At the end of second day of the conference, I was extremely happy to have received 1st place in the Humanities and Social Sciences division for presenting my poster. The CSTEP Conference as a whole changed my outlook on life and reaffirmed my decision to continue on in the field of child development/educational psychology as a graduate student. I will definitely be signing up for next year’s conference!   

Friday, June 1, 2012

Fulfilling a Dream in China

Joanna Irizarry-Zaraza, Verrazano Class of 2013, is a Spring 2012 recipient of a Verrazano Study Abroad Scholarship to support her study abroad experience in China during the summer.  This is the first of three posts that Joanna will be contributing about her participation in the study abroad program.
Hello my fellow Verrazano students,
Joanna Irizarry
My name is Joanna Grace Irizarry-Zaraza, and I am 23 hours away from the beginning of my dream coming true - studying abroad in China. All I can hear is my heart thumping extremely quick and loud. I have mixed feelings at this point. As I said, I’m going to China after dreaming about stepping onto that land since my childhood years. I am also extremely sad because it is the first time I will be anywhere without my parents for more than 2 days and also because I am leaving my significant other of 5 ½ years; but I’m thrilled to see the cultural differences of China.  Chinese culture and language has always had a firm grasp on my curiosity.  Perhaps it’s the way the people greet each other or even their different tones of voice and body languages that makes me even more interested in their history.  My interest has led me to decide to minor in Chinese Studies, and I have gone through the process of applying for scholarships and trying to stabilize my emotions for this enrichment opportunity of a lifetime.
I am a high achiever and very ambitious, so I have tried to take advantage of every opportunity that comes in my direction. Throughout my college career, I have reached many significant milestones through skill and practice. I have had experience in mentoring and tutoring with “Strategies for Success” as part of the JCC Beacon program and SEEK program. I have worked with children with disabilities in the Staten Island Mental Health Society. In addition, I had a gratifying experience in accepting the 2009 Senoritas Del Futuro scholarship of $1000 from El Diario for my dedication as a Latina female and achievement in my academic status. I am a member of the Emerging Leaders Program, Chi Alpha Epsilon (XAE) National Honor Society, CSI Dean’s List, CSI SEEK Honors, and also a member of the CSI Swim Team. I have participated in The Model NYS Senate internship, and have been a tutor at the Center of Accessibility at CSI. I have never questioned any of these educational extra-curricular activities. Sadly, I have been attempting to finish my Study Abroad application since 2010, but I have prolonged this trip because of fear and financial dilemmas. I feel blessed, thanks to The Verrazano School and STOCS, for providing me support and a scholarship for me to study abroad and for making my dreams come true.
Studying abroad in China will be a magnificent learning experience that will enable me to reinforce my skills in being an active learner and give me the opportunity  to grow as I have always wished. I have had a profound connection to China’s history and its culture. I know for a fact that by me experiencing a summer in China, I will be developing my language skills by interacting with native speakers and will also understand more about China’s ancient culture. This will allow me to mature and encourage me to reach my full potential in my academic career. By living in China for a month I will get hands-on experience of the culture.  I will have the opportunity to analyze things such as the educational system and music.  With my experience in China, I will be able to learn what is appropriate or disrespectful in the Chinese culture. I hope to one day I will open my own clinic (since I am a psychology major) and consult in three different languages: English, Spanish, and Chinese.

I decided to study abroad in China with Brooklyn College. The reason I choose Brooklyn College is because the program consists of traveling all over China to sightsee and learn about the different environment in each city or area. I will have the honor of going to Beijing (China’s national capital), Xi’an (starting point of the ancient over-land Silk Road), Nanjing (China’s ancient capital), Suzhou (famous scenic city -exquisite gardens and water towns acclaimed), and Shanghai (China’s leading financial center).  I will also have the pleasure of going to Hong Kong, Yellow Mountain, and Yangzhou. I hope I get to experience all these different locations in China thoroughly because I’m extremely excited about traveling all throughout China, but I do fear that it might be rushed.  I hope not; I hope to soak in every second of this adventure!
I honestly hope that my experience will helpful fulfill my curiosity about and passion for Chinese culture.  I hope not to be too home sick and enjoy every event that I can. I know this is a life changing event and I am more prepared than ever. I just pray to get there and home safe and sound and that my family will be safe as well.

Wish me luck in my experience in China!