Recently, BMCC student Rada Mayya Kostadinova was one of four CUNY students to receive honorable mention for the Barry M. Goldwater scholarship, the premier federally funded scholarship for undergraduates in the sciences, engineering and mathematics.
Thousands of students are nominated for this award, and their undergraduate research experience weighs heavily in the selection process.
According to James Airozo, Director of Student Academic Awards, CUNY, “only a very small number of community college students nationwide are honored as Goldwater scholars and honorable mention simply because they have less research experience than the juniors with whom they are competing.”
The science research projects Kostadinova took part in at BMCC significantly sharpened her edge, in the competition.
“By presenting and taking part in the research, I was able to overcome my fears and I’m much more comfortable in what I know and what I do,” she says.
Building research skills
With science professor Patricia Deleon, Kostadinova participated in the research project “Reiki Treatment on Colon Cancer Cells,” and co-presented a poster at the 2013 Student Collegiate Science Technology Entry Program (C-STEP) Statewide Conference sponsored by Syracuse University and held at Lake George, New York.
With Professor Abel Navarro, she took part in the research project “Bio-Removal of Heavy Metals from Wastewaters by Spent Tea Leaves,” and co-presented a poster at the 2013 Earth Science and Climate Change Conference in Las Vegas.
The science knowledge and lab skills she has learned provide a base on which to reach her ultimate goal, she says, becoming a periodontist, “and conducting my own research about growing teeth from stem cells.”
Rada Mayya Kostadinova grew up in Bulgaria, and lives with her two sisters in Queens, New York.
“I did not know any English when I moved here in 2011,” she says. “One thing that helped me was movies, books and magazines, and my sisters spoke English with me at home.”
She started college at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), in Manhattan, “because in high school I showed talent working with fabric and drawing, but even then, I really wanted to be a dentist,” she says.
Finally, “I decided to take control of my own life and applied to CUNY,” she says. “I worked all summer to pay for my tuition at BMCC.”
Working in the dental field appeals to her “for personal reasons,” she says. “There are a lot of cases of people dying because of mistakes in their dental care in Bulgaria.”
As a child, she witnessed her own father’s painful experience with misdiagnosed peritonitis, or gum disease.
“Once I become a dentist, I will have the choice of going back there for part of my career, to improve the care people receive,” she says.
This summer, she is volunteering in a dental clinic in Tijuana, Mexico. She also just began an internship in a private dental practice.
“I’ll be answering phones but also handing him the tools as he does procedures, and shadowing him as he examines patients,” she says.
Excelling at BMCC, then Queens College
At BMCC, Kostadinova was a Foundation Scholar, a member of Phi Theta Kappa and on the Dean’s List. She also found time to volunteer at New York Presbyterian Hospital “giving patients water and offering emotional support,” she says, and at the New York Blood Center.
Now pursuing a bachelor’s degree in biology at Queens College, CUNY, “I got a full tuition scholarship from their Transfer Honors Program,” she says, and her next step is to attend dental school at SUNY Stonybrook.
“When I look back, I’m so glad I found BMCC,” Kostandinova says. “The people are amazing and the professors are incredibly helpful. They really want you to do well.”
“Rada is the kind of student who never loses time,” says Professor Navarro.
“She is always looking for opportunities to build her profile and improve her research skills. She has a perfect GPA, but she goes beyond the classroom to understand biological concepts and what directions science can go in.”