CUNY Students Win Prestigious National Science Foundation Research Fellowships

March 28, 2017 | The University

Twelve CUNY students and recent alumni have won prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships, each worth $138,000, to pursue research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in advance fields including astrophysics, cell biology and organometallic chemistry.

They are studying at such outstanding institutions as the CUNY Graduate Center, Harvard and Stanford Universities.

Seventeen other CUNY students and alumni received honorable mention for their research proposals in science, technology, engineering and math.

Chancellor James B. Milliken said: “These achievements reflect the exceptional talent of CUNY’s students and the quality of the instruction they receive at our campuses in the sciences. Our students enjoy the benefit of studying with outstanding faculty members, who both motivate them and open the door to careers at the top of their fields. They all contribute to making New York City a global leader in higher education and the world of ideas.”

This highly competitive National Science Foundation (NSF) fellowship, payable over three years, includes an annual stipend of $34,000 along with a $12,000 cost-of-education allowance for tuition and fees (paid to the institution) and, as NSF adds, “opportunities for international research and professional development, and the freedom to conduct their own research at any accredited U.S. institution of graduate education they choose.”

More than 13,000 applicants applied for 2,000 fellowships this year.

Eleven of the winners are or were undergraduate students at the University; one who earned a bachelor’s elsewhere studies at the CUNY Graduate Center:

Nohely Cesarina Abreu, Queens College ’16, starts a Ph.D. program in cell biology at Weill Cornell Medical College next fall after completing a post-baccalaureate research program at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research concerns the transporting of signals among brain cells that modulate sleep, appetite and other human behaviors.

Munazza Khalida Alam, Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College ’16, studies astronomy and astrophysics at Harvard University. Her research focuses on determining the atmospheres of planets that circle distant stars.

Munazza Alam

Julia Lee Arenson, a Ph.D. student in biological anthropology at the CUNY Graduate Center, earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Oregon in Eugene. She studies the evolution of African guenon monkeys.

Bianca Regina Brown, York College ’15, pursues evolutionary biology at Brown University. Working with fruit flies, barnacles and rodents, she researches how environmental changes affect the microbiome (the microbes that symbiotically live in other creatures, particularly bacteria in the gut).

Hila Tzipora Chase, Hunter College ’15, researches organismal biology at the University of Montana. She is interested in the biomechanics and skeletal changes that enable animals to fly, from ancient winged creatures that predated dinosaurs to today’s birds.

Joseph Derosa, Macaulay Honors College at City College ’15, studies organometallic chemistry at The Scripps Research Institute. He uses metals like copper, nickle and palladium to catalyze reactions in organic molecules; this can form bonds and materials that would not exist in nature. The upshot of this basic research could be better pharmaceuticals.

Hala Haddad, Hunter College ’17, starts doctoral work at Brown University in the fall. Her NSF proposal blends neuroscience with neuropsychology to look at the impact of environment on the brain’s neurons. Her basic research could lead to physical changes in the settings of early-intervention programs for children with disabilities or of rehabilitation centers for adults with motor neuron diseases.

Thomas David Peek Hart, Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College ’15, now working toward a Ph.D. at Rockefeller University, uses genetic techniques to learn how the organization of ant brains enables them to communicate.

Lashawn Peña, Hunter College ’15, now pursuing a Ph.D. in immunology at Stanford School of Medicine, builds on research showing that some cancer cells can be reprogramed into immune cells. He intends to learn about the mechanism that allows this to happen.

Mary Peña, Queens College ’15, now a doctoral student at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor, won an NSF grant in cultural anthropology. She will explore how residents who live and work in Puerto Plata, a coastal city in the Dominican Republic, negotiate changes in their neighborhoods as a tourism-oriented reconstruction project moves forward and, more broadly, the social and environmental consequences of major building projects.

Patryk Perkowski, Macaulay Honors College at Queens College ’14, will study economics at Columbia University. He turned down a Fulbright Fellowship in 2014 in favor of a research fellowship at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.

Patryk Perkowski

Ellianna Schwab, Macaulay Honors College at City College ’17, has not yet chosen which graduate school she will attend to further her knowledge of astrophysics. With her NSF grant, she intends to study gravitational waves in close binary stars. She also won a 2016 Goldwater Scholarship; this highly competitive federal grant is for undergraduates who have the potential to make significant contributions in the STEM fields.

Ellianna Schwab

The students and alumni who received honorable mention were:

MaryBeth Ann Apriceno, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, investigates social psychology at SUNY Stony Brook.

Rajshekhar Basak, Macaulay Honors College at City College, studies chemical theory, models and computational methods at Yale University.

Ariel Alexander Calderon, Hunter College, researches systems and molecular biology at Stanford University.

Amani M. Ebrahim, City College, investigates polymers at the University of Connecticut.

Michelle Henderson, City College, works in environmental engineering at the University of South Florida.

Tyler Anthony Joseph, City College, studies in bioinformatics at Columbia University.

Davneet Kaur, Queens College, probes the physics of living systems at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Tamar Lichter, Macaulay Honors College at Queens College, ponders Algebra, Number Theory, and Combinatorics; NSF provided no information on a graduate institution. She won a 2016 federal Goldwater Scholarship.

Brigid Maloney, Hunter College ’17, is interested in comparative psychology; NSF provided no information on graduate institution.

C.R. Christiana Oh, Macaulay Honors College at City College, studies chemical engineering; NSF provided no information on graduate institution.

Amanda Ramdular, Hunter College, investigates chemical synthesis at New York University.

Saren H. Seeley, Hunter College ’13, studies social/affective neuroscience at the University of Arizona.

Pavel Shapturenka, Macaulay Honors College at City College, researches chemical engineering at the University of California-Santa Barbara.

Taner Mahmut Ture, Brooklyn College, researches chemical theory, models and computational methods, at the CUNY Graduate Center.

Lawrence M. Vulis, City College, studies hydrology; NSF provided no information on graduate institution.

Shawn Williams, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, researches cell biology at Brown University.

Lucina Christine Zawadzki, Macaulay Honors College at College of Staten Island, specializes in ecology; NSF provided no information on graduate institution.