FLUSHING, NY, May 3, 2013 – The National Science Foundation Graduate Research fellowships are among the most prestigious and highly competitive grants in the country. This year three Queens College graduates – Jasmine Hatcher, Christopher Parisano and Jamar Whaley – have received these awards to continue their research. Their projects include finding a safer way to store technetium, a radioactive byproduct of nuclear fission; investigating the relationship that people in Lima, Peru, have with archeological sites, which often are the only places they can dispose of garbage; and exploring the neurological adaptations that occur within individuals suffering from behavioral addiction to the Internet.
The NSF fellowships, which provide $126,000 over three years, support graduate students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. institutions. About 2,000 awards from a pool of over 13,000 applicants were given nationwide in 2013.
“I am proud and delighted that the National Science Foundation has recognized the achievements and potential of these exceptional young scientists,” said Queens College President James Muyskens. “They join the ranks of past recipients who have gone on to become prominent visionaries, inventors and Nobel Prize winners.”
Fulfilling the Need for Scientists in the Field of Nuclear Engineering
Westbury, L.I. resident Jasmine Hatcher, 28, Queens College class of 2009, credits her undergraduate courses in inorganic chemistry at QC for “changing the course of (her) life.” She says, “If I hadn’t done research throughout my undergraduate years, I wouldn’t have finished my degree in chemistry, found a job at Brookhaven National Laboratory at the height of the recession, or gone to graduate school.”
Hatcher began her doctoral studies last fall at the CUNY Graduate Center, where her research centers on processing and storing nuclear fuels. In addition to her course work there, Hatcher has been taking lecture and lab classes at QC and Hunter College.
The NSF funding will give Hatcher the financial and academic flexibility to focus exclusively on her research. “This award has validated my work and made me feel like I’m doing something important,” she says.
Coming from a “family who had immigrated to the U.S. for opportunity,” (her mother is Haitian and her stepfather is from Martinique), Hatcher knew early on that she would attend college. Following her mother’s advice, she had enrolled in a pre-nursing program at Queensborough Community College. While taking an introductory chemistry course for nursing students, Hatcher met the chair of the chemistry department who saw her potential and encouraged her to take general chemistry. After that she was hooked.
Hatcher has already published several articles and is the recipient of many academic awards including grants from government agencies that support research by underrepresented minorities. She has also done volunteer work for NY Cares at an all-girls school where most students are African-American and Latina. “It was then I truly understood my role as a minority woman and a scientist, which was to set an example,” she says.
Finding Gold in Garbage
Although cultural anthropologist and Little Neck resident Christopher Parisano, 27, was accepted as a PhD candidate at several top American institutions, he chose to enroll last fall at the CUNY Graduate Center which, he says, “brings together many distinguished intellectuals into one of the best anthropology programs in the country.”
Parisano’s doctoral research deals with what happens when cultural heritage sites throughout Lima, Peru are used as waste recycling zones by some of the city’s poorest residents. This particular interest within cultural anthropology began with his father and grandfather, automotive mechanics whose lives were linked in different ways to Willets Point, Queens, an auto salvage and repair district. The proposed redevelopment of Willets Point from an automotive junkyard into a booming commercial district became the basis of Parisano’s undergraduate honors thesis.
After graduation from Macaulay Honors College at QC in 2008, Parisano worked as a public anthropologist for Peru’s Ministry of Culture, studying the way ruined archeological sites merged with material waste landfills in economic development projects. (He had initially gone to Peru as an undergraduate, using opportunities afforded by Macaulay to finance his studies there). His experiences both at Queens College and in Peru have shaped his interests and approach to his field. “I can’t picture myself doing anything else,” he says.
From High-School Dropout to Neuroscientist
For Flushing resident Jamar Whaley, 36, who has had to battle significant challenges all his life, winning an NSF award will help him “achieve (his) goal of being an agent for change as a neuroscience addiction researcher and leading a life of mentorship and service.“ Having recently undergone surgery for a rare form of thyroid cancer, Whaley just learned that he won a Fulbright scholarship. He will be doing clinical research on Internet Addiction Disorder this fall at Capital Medical University in Beijing, one of the top academic medical institutions in China—which has more Internet users than any other nation. Whaley is postponing his doctoral plans and NSF funding support until his return to the U.S.
A high-school dropout who had chronic asthma as a young child that kept him home sick much of the time, Whaley credits his 91-year-old great-grandmother and support from Queens College for helping him find his research niche – addiction. “Getting accepted into QC was one of the happiest days of my life,” he says. “In the future I want to make sure others can have a life and excel after they have underachieved.”
As an undergraduate neuroscience/psychology major, Whaley won a slew of awards including a national Goldwater scholarship in 2009 that provided the impetus for him to begin focusing on research, specifically heroin addiction and impulsivity. In the summer of 2009, he
conducted research on diseases of addiction at Yale University’s Biomedical Science Training and Enrichment Program, which spilled over into his proposed research of Internet Addiction Disorder and his goal of obtaining a doctorate in Neuroscience.
To fulfill his second commitment to assist minority students, Whaley took off some time after graduation from QC in May 2011 to work as a science teacher in Houston for the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP). KIPP is a national network of free, open-enrollment, college-preparatory public charter schools in underserved communities.
As it celebrates its 75th year, Queens College enjoys a national reputation for its liberal arts and sciences and pre-professional programs. With its graduate and undergraduate degrees, honors programs, and research and internship opportunities, the college helps its over 20,000 students realize their potential in countless ways, assisted by an accessible, award-winning faculty. Located on a beautiful, 77-acre campus in Flushing, the college is cited each year in the Princeton Review as one of the nation’s 100 “Best Value” colleges, thanks to its outstanding academics, generous financial aid packages, and relatively low costs. More info on Queens College at www.qc.cuny.edu.